New Delhi: It took anxious hotel staff in Delhi, a clueless hospital, several social media posts, a deputy commissioner’s help and a local tehsildar to inform a Kashmiri wife about her husband’s death in New Delhi.
Only two days after the Modi government imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in Srinagar and cut off all modes of communication, including landline services in the region Sunday night, Nazir Lone, 57, passed away of a cardiac arrest in a Delhi hotel Tuesday.
On his way back from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he worked as a surgeon in a hospital, Lone had a stopover in Delhi before his scheduled flight the next day to visit his family in Srinagar for Eid.
“I am sure he was thrilled to be home for Eid, especially because he gets to come home for vacations very rarely,” Sajad Lone, Nazir’s nephew, told ThePrint.
But Tuesday night, Nazir suffered a heart attack when he was staying at Hotel Shanti Palace in Mahipalpur. The hotel staff rushed him to the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre nearby but he was declared brought dead. Neither the hotel staff nor the hospital knew what to do and whom to inform about a lone 57-year-old man, evidently from Kashmir, as his passport would tell them.
The social media cry for help
For the Lone family, the first break came in the form of another hotel guest, who took to Instagram to post about the demise of a man from Rawalpora in Srinagar whom “no one seems to know”.
It caught the attention of Saima Hussain, a Kashmiri student in Delhi who instantly recognised the name as that of the “uncle” who used to be her neighbour back in Srinagar.
Unable to connect with anyone in Srinagar owing to the communication blackout, Hussain decided to take to Twitter. “Any journalist in #kashmir right whose internet is working? It’s urgent. My neighbour has passed away in Delhi and his family doesn’t know,” she tweeted Wednesday.
Any journalist in #kashmir right whose internet is working? It’s urgent. My neighbour has passed away in Delhi and his family doesn’t know.
— Saima Hussain (@saima_h_mir) August 7, 2019
Among those to take cognisance was Srinagar Deputy Commissioner Shahid Choudhary.
Choudhary, a 2008 batch IAS officer of the Jammu and Kashmir cadre, is known to be highly accessible and responsive on social media. He chanced upon Hussain’s tweet after several retweets.
Once the Srinagar administration was aware of the events in Delhi, Choudhary summoned the local tehsildar and tasked him with informing Nazir’s wife of his death.
An administration in overdrive
Hussain told ThePrint that Choudhary got in touch with her and offered to apprise Nazir’s wife of his death.
“If it wasn’t for Shahid Choudhary, perhaps Nazir uncle’s wife would have gotten to know of his death very late, if at all,” Hussain told ThePrint.
Choudhary said he sent a tehsildar to Nazir’s home in Hamza colony in Rawalpora, Srinagar, to deliver the news.
“The tehsildar was sent to the residence of the deceased and we got them connected to New Delhi,” Choudhary told ThePrint. “There the formalities were completed and movement of the family was facilitated.”
‘Situation would have been different if no blackout’
Within an hour or so of being informed of her husband’s death, Naseema Lone flew to New Delhi with her brother. By this time, however, it was late Wednesday afternoon.
“She was in a lot of shock and extremely emotional when she saw her husband’s body in the morgue,” said Sajad, Nazir’s nephew who was in Delhi at the time. He too found about his uncle’s death through social media.
Sajad said that the situation would have panned out very differently if the total shutdown wasn’t in place. “My uncle’s body lay unclaimed for at least 12 hours,” Sajad said. “Had there been no communication blackout, most of our relatives would have flown to Delhi at night itself.”
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.