Few things require more courage than putting your life in grave risk for others, particularly if they’re strangers. By any measure, that’s humanity at its finest.
Last Friday, Rouf Ahmad Dar, a 32-year-old registered professional rafter and tourist guide, sacrificed his life to protect the lives of five tourists after their raft had capsized along the Lidder River in South Kashmir’s Pahalgam.
While we must shine a bright light on Dar’s heroics, some reports indicate that the incident would not have happened had the tourists not badgered him to take them out for white-water rafting after sunset. Pick up any handbook on white-water rafting anywhere in India, and there are clear directives not to take tourists out after sundown. In fact, many guidelines suggest that trips should be timed to finish at least an hour before dark.
Around 7 pm on Friday, the doomed raft had been caught in a stream of blustery winds. While Dar had initially swum to safety, on seeing the tourists struggling to get out of the water, he dove back in and managed to save them. Unfortunately, the raging waters of the Lidder which were too strong for Dar swept him away and eventually killed him.
The State Disaster Response Force, local police and volunteers, later retrieved his body on the following morning near Bhawani bridge.
“It was an actual demonstration of Kashmiriyat, which teaches love brotherhood and care, displayed by Dar, who successfully saved five people including two domestic tourists, in the true spirit of trademark Kashmiri hospitality,” said Deputy Commissioner (Anantnag) Khalid Jehangir, told the Press Trust of India.
While the local administration announced an ex gratia of Rs 2 lakh for his family, the Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Satya Pal Malik, announced a further compensation of Rs 5 lakh, calling him a real-life hero who “sacrificed his life for saving the lives of others”.
From the trouble-torn Kulgam district in South Kashmir, Dar was on his way to finishing his Master’s Degree in Political Science from the Indira Gandhi National Open University when he passed away under such tragic circumstances.
Despite this unfortunate incident, it should not deter other tourists from making their way to this picturesque region and experiencing its natural treasures. As a consequence of militancy, the state tourism industry has taken a real battering with 2018 recording the arrival of only 8.5 lakh tourists, the lowest in seven years. A higher inflow of tourists will go a long way towards easing the economic pain of this region.
While he died tragically in an exemplary display of humanity, selfless champions like Dar awaken our shared humanity and what we can do is take his example forward and help people whenever we can, in our own capacities. That would be the best way to honour his life.