I was once traveling to Shahrkoot which is located adjacent to Tarathpora Kupwara and very near to Chowkibal.
It was probably year 2016.
And from Handwara I boarded next Sumo towards Tarathpora Kupwara….
While the TATA Sumo was in the Sumo Stand Handwara itself……I was unpleasantly surprised as the Sumo driver stuffed the Sumo vehicle with additional passengers….
I protested….but all alone…..
All looked silently….as if amazed.
The Driver and other sumo drivers gathered next to me and gave me bad looks.
I was seated on the front.
I objected to such a huge number of passengers as is not allowed in a single TATA Sumo.
After a while the Sumo driver asked me to deboard….or he said this Sumo shall go nowhere.
Get out of my Sumo.
He explained rather directed me further.
I stood my ground amidst such a scene created. It was getting uncomfortable.
People were glancing at my face.
“Yeh koun hai” ?
I instantly called SP Handwara on his cell.
Those days Maqsood Ul Zaman was posted as SP Handwara.
And immediately in a jiffy he sent the police party….
The sumo was identified and seized and later challaned.
While an alternative Sumo was arranged by the SP Handwara’s police party…..
They were respectful and happy to provide all the assistance.
We all the passengers were comfortably placed and excess passengers were asked to deboard.
This all exercise happened in broad daylight in the main chowk Handwara. People gathered around and felt elated.
And enroute to Tarathpora the co-passengers were all praise for timely police action and sought my cell number in excitement. While I spent my time highlighting their rights as general public/passengers.
Notably this whole news reached Shahrkoot Kupwara to the host where I stayed for the couple of nights….
I was asked to withdraw the complaint against the Sumo Driver by the Tarathpora Sumo stand operators. I didn’t.
This is how we should put our foot down.
And save ourselves and lives of others. I kept reminding.
Hope my host Javaid Ahmad Bhat and friend Khursheed Yousuf now an IIS Officer remembers the episode ?
This episode became talk of the town there in Tarathpora as a passenger from Srinagar had put a local Sumo Driver to trouble at Handwara.
Residents were whispering all around. My host sniffed what had happened.
Later my host too received a call enquiring about his guest. That was me.
It looked a bit awkward.
I stood the criticism if any…
The discomfort was palpable.
My friend and host supported me.
And rest is history.
( Yesterday the ill-fated vehicle at Boniyar Uri reportedly was overloaded with around fifteen passengers on board)
Writer is Gold Medalist in Journalism and can be reached at [email protected]