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Saving lives, guide dies

Rouf Ahmad Dar was on a raft negotiating Pahalgam’s Lidder stream when gusty winds caused it to capsize

By Muzaffar Raina in Srinagar

  • Published 2.06.19, 3:13 AM
  • Updated 2.06.19, 3:13 AM
Rouf Ahmad Dar
Rouf Ahmad Dar Source: Twitter

A young Kashmiri tour guide died saving a Calcutta couple and three other tourists from drowning on Friday afternoon, prompting him to be hailed as a hero and an exemplar of the great tradition of Kashmiri hospitality.

Officials said Rouf Ahmad Dar, aged in his 20s, was on a raft negotiating Pahalgam’s Lidder stream when gusty winds caused it to capsize.

Rouf saved the five tourists from drowning “but unfortunately, he himself drowned in the process”, Kashmir tourism director Nisar Ahmad Wani told The Telegraph.

A police officer in Pahalgam identified the Calcutta couple as Maneesh Kumar Saraf and Suneeta Saraf, residents of Nandan Nagar on the Bengal capital’s fringes.

Pahalgam sub-divisional police officer Shaukat Rafiq said rescuers from the police and the State Disaster Response Force had fished Rouf’s body out on Saturday and handed it over to the family.

“He saved five tourists, including a couple from Calcutta, and three local people. The Calcutta couple returned home today (Saturday),” Rafiq said.

Rouf was from trouble-torn Kulgam, which along with the other south Kashmir districts had borne the brunt of the violence that gripped Kashmir following the encounter killing of Hizb poster boy Burhan Wani in 2016.

Governor Satya Pal Malik hailed Rouf as a “real-life hero” and announced an ex gratia of Rs 5 lakh for his family. “He is a real-life hero who sacrificed his life to save the lives of others,” Malik said.

The district administration in Anantnag has recommended Rouf for a bravery award. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah saluted the “braveheart”.

“He saved the tourists from his capsized raft but lost his own life in the process. May Allah grant him the highest place in Jannat,” Omar tweeted.

Malik’s adviser, Khursheed Ahmad Ganai, said this was an example of how the people of Kashmir care for their tourists.

“Without caring for his own life, Rouf braved the strong currents of the River Lidder to save five tourists from drowning. It was the ultimate sacrifice one can offer,” he said.

Tourism has suffered during the three-decade-old militancy, with the past few years being particularly bad, like the early years of the militancy. Around 8.5 lakh tourists visited the Valley in 2018, the lowest in seven years.

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