Unseasonal snowfall in the higher reaches of Kashmir Valley has left hundreds of nomadic families in distress. They have suffered major loss of their livestock. The cold wave that engulfed the upper reaches of Kashmir due to unseasonal snowfall, triggered panic among the nomads. They have migrated and arrived at different high altitude meadows of the valley recently.

Every year by the end of March, thousands of nomads begin their annual migration, with their lakhs of sheep and goats. They travel from the Jammu region to reach the Kashmir Valley. These families embark on their journey towards the alpine pastures, so their animals can graze during the summer. They return to warmer districts of Jammu region in October, as the temperature dips.

This year, however, officials confirmed that almost in every area of Kashmir the nomads have suffered huge loss due to unseasonal snow in the higher areas. The government is still assessing the damage, he added, but confirmed that such unseasonal snowfall has caused a lot of damage to this community this time.

Gulam Nabi, a nomad from Rajouri district said the community felt scared for the last four days as they were stuck in a snowstorm near the Tulail valley. "Some of our livestock are missing, since the snowfall engulfed the areas," he said, adding that this year's seasonal migration has been the toughest.

Another heartbreaking incident which was witnessed near Razdan pass along Bandipora-Gurez road. Kulsooma Akthar, a nomad girl from Poonch district, was begging for help from travellers passing through. Her family's tent had been destroyed by the heavy snowfall at high altitudes. "Kulsooma was crying and begging for help, she said their cattle were lost and the family had suffered a great loss," recalled Irshad Ahmad, who had met her.

In Central Kashmir's Budgam district, Sonawullah Khan, said that their livestock has been severely damaged and they have never seen such a scene in their lives. "We hoped someone would come to our aid and the administration came to us later, which gave us a sigh of relief," he said, adding that their habitats have also been damaged due to snowfall. In South kashmir's Kulgam district, Mohammad Aslam khan, also described this year's migration as a difficult one and said that the government should help the community.

According to the District magistrate Kupwara. Around "40 tribal nomadic families were given relief material by our teams at high altitude areas of Kausar Nag, Mahinag, Kungwattan. Kudos to the teams of revenue, sheep husbandry,forest and SDRF." The local police have rescued 27 nomads in South Kashmir's Shopian district as well.

"Police Station Keller, received a distress call from the nomads residing temporarily in tents at higher reaches of Kund Panjrikhal area of Keller Shopian. They were stuck there due to inclement weather and there was apprehension of loss of life and property. Acting swiftly, a special rescue team headed by SHO PS Keller assisted by SDRF personnel rescued all the trapped nomads and later shifted to safer places," said Shopian police.

A Bakarwal family consisting of four young children and three adults was also stranded after the snow storm near the Chhut Pass area for the two days. An army unit patrolling in the area noticed the stranded group and approached them. The nomads had already lost most of their goats and had a couple of livestock lay dead near their shelter.

The makeshift tent they had pitched was shattered by strong winds and they had nothing left to eat. The army then rescued the family. In Budgam district also, police have rescued nomadic families who were stuck in the Reshipora area of the district.

According to the tribal affairs Department of J&K, "in view of loss of livestock and property in highland pastures affecting the livelihood of tribal families, an assessment is under way. The government will also initiate steps for working out compensation and support. The administration in all districts have also deputed interdepartmental teams,"

"A joint team of civil administration ,police, and army reached higher reaches in Kulgam, Shopian, Reasi district where nomadic population from Rajauri, Poonch & Reasi district live. They were given relief materials in Kaligali, Gogera, Mahinag and Kausernag,Tilo Dhok," added the divisional commissioner Jammu.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has directed deputy commissioners to provide immediate assistance to affected families. Further assistance will be considered on priority after assessment by districts and inter-departmental teams.

"Deeply anguished by the loss of livestock of tribal families due to unprecedented & unseasonal rains. Directed DCs to provide immediate assistance to affected families. Further assistance will be considered on priority after assessment by districts & inter-departmental teams," tweeted the Lt Governor.

All Photographs Sajid Rana