SRINAGAR: Residents of a village in the restive south Kashmir have offered to adopt four children, including two minors, from the minority Pandit community whose mother, their only surviving parent, passed away after brief illness last week.

Nancy Koul, 55, died at her home in Levdora village on December 22, throwing her four children and the entire village into inconsolable mourning, as concerns mounted about the future of her children, the eldest among whom is a daughter, Saroj Kaul, 17, who dropped out of school after her father’s death last year.

Krishan Kaul, who ran a tea stall to support his family passed away in December last year, “We arranged for his burial and we did the same with his wife. The family reposed trust in us when the community fled Kashmir in early nineties. We can’t break that trust. The village has decided to adopt the family for which we are making arrangements,” Ghulam Rasool, their neighbor, said.

When the news of Nancy's death spread, hundreds of men, women and children from adjoining areas poured into the village to help in carrying out the last rites of the Pandit lady. Women beat their chests as the body of Nancy was taken away for cremation.

Nancy and Krishen had gotten married in 1990 at a time when Kashmiri Pandits were driven out of the valley due to fear and political uncertainty as an armed insurgency had broken out, sparking riots and violent clashes and encounters between militants and government forces. The couple's was the only family which had decided to stay back.

Over the last three decades, the Kaul's had four children including Saroj, Meenakshi Kaul, 15, a Class 10 student, Sagar Kaul, 13, Class 9, and Sonu Kaul, a kindergarten student. After Nancy’s death, some relatives came from Jammu and offered them to spend the rest of their lives with them in the winter capital.

“Our parents didn’t leave this place when we were not even born. We grew up here. All of our friends live here. How can we think of leaving our home? We were born here and we will die here,” Sagar told one of his relatives earlier this week who offered to bring the family to Jagti camp where Pandits who fled Kashmir, live in settlements.

Another group of Pandits living in a settlement colony built by the state government for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in the adjoining Veesu area, visited the orphans on Sunday and asked them to move in with them. But they too had to return disappointed.

“The Muslim community has stood by the family during all these years. We are indebted to them. They have shown a great example of communal harmony and brotherhood. Despite all the odds, they ensured that the family was never harmed,” Sunil Raina, a Kashmiri Pandit who works in the government, said.

While Nancy was given a menial job in J&K Bank after her husband’s demise last year, the orphans have now been left without any source of income. The villagers are collecting donations which will be deposited into their accounts to help them bear the tragedy.

“We want to tell the government that the eldest daughter should get a job so that she is able to take care of her siblings. We will also help them in whichever way possible. They are a part of us. We can’t leave them alone at this time of tragedy,” Hajra Bano, who lives in Levdora village, said.