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The Rediff Special/Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar

'Faces of the dead visit my dreams'

March 25, 2005

This is the story of Mohammad Maqbool Wani.

The 50-year-old has been assisting autopsies in Kashmir for 15 years.

Kashmir peace talks

The process has deadened his senses and made him almost robot-like. So much so even his children say he doesn't react like a normal parent.

Wani says he has assisted on more than 18,000 autopsies. Many of them were badly mutilated bodies, which were brought to Kashmir's only police hospital in Srinagar during the 15 years of separatist violence in the Valley.

He has seen victims of bomb explosions, encounters, grenade attacks and gunfire.

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"I have answered my gory call of duty for years. I would wait for the news of dead bodies. It was traumatic. So many human beings dying due to the sensless violence. I thought I had nerves of steel; but slowly it was getting tougher to handle," Wani told rediff.com.

"I remember the first dead militant who was brought to the police hospital in 1988. I looked at the body... I saw a human being, not a militant, lying dead.

"I worked on the endless stream of dead bodies like a robot. As time passed, I saw bodies of children and women killed in blasts and gunfire. That made me almost numb, almost like an emotionless statue."

Wani usually spends his own money on buying surgical gloves and knives.

"I couldn't ask the relatives of victims to pay for the autopsy kit. And there were not enough in the police hospital to cope with the thousands of dead bodies.

"I get called to work at unearthly hours. Often a vehicle comes in the dark of the night and picks me up. No questions asked and no answers given. My family knows what I am called to do. They wait whole nights for my  return."

He has surrendered to his fate philosophically, but the years have taken their toll. "I have endless nightmares. The faces of the dead keep haunting my dreams. Now even the thought of sleep gives me the jitters, it is nightmarish even to think about sleeping.

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"When I reported these symptoms to a doctor, he prescribed sedatives and tranquilizers. I have reached a stage where I can hardly sleep."

His requests for a change of duty fell on deaf ears. "My superior officers told me they would love to shift me, but they don't have a replacement."

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Wani is resigned to continue his grotesque duties for another six to seven years, till he retires.

"I am dying a slow painful death and I think I am slowly going mad. My two daughters and son often tell me I don't play with them. It is impossible to narrate my horrible experiences to them. I must hide it within my heart... all those tragic scenes I see. It is eating me up from the inside."

His appeal is universal: "Make peace. End the drama of death in Kashmir."

Headline Photograph: Ami Vitale/Getty Images

Design: Rahil Shaikh


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Number of User Comments: 21




Sub: Dr. Wani is a hero

Dr. Wani is a Hero in his own way. No, he has not become emotionally numb. The fact that he feels bad about it shows ...


Posted by MANIKANDAN P.B





Sub: wani

really thought provoking story. after reading this i was felt that whole kashmeeries will turn to this state of condition one day,if the situation there ...


Posted by Darsana Gopinath J





Sub: Story of an autopsy assistant

I really wish that Mr. Wani would talk openly about each autopsy he does to his friends and family members. He shouldn't keep it hidden ...


Posted by Shipra Raju





Sub: A true story

Really feeling bad on hearing his life story...his interview has to be published in all media's..so that people understand the value of PEACE...we should be ...


Posted by AnandhiSriram





Sub: Sad!

I was saddened by the article and the agony that Wani goes through every day in his life is incomparable. Indian culture prescribes the performance ...


Posted by Sandhya




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