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Valley of fear: Rising leopard attacks in Kashmir’s Baramulla have children holed up at home

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Baramulla (J&K), Sep 14: Rutba Manzoor (12) was playing cheerfully in the garden outside her house when a leopard pounced upon her and dragged her into the forest. Her mother and sister could do nothing but scream violently.

“We are still in trauma. We cannot forget her face and mutilated body. It haunts us all the time. The scenes of recovering her half-eaten body will always remain as a scar in our lives,” Ishfaq Ahmad, Rutba’s grief-stricken brother, told 101Reporters.

Rutba, the daughter of Manzoor Ahmad from Bernate village in Uri tehsil of Baramulla district, was mauled to death on June 14. Her mangled body could be recovered from the nearby forest, only after an intensive search lasting for hours.

In the majority of cases involving wild animal attacks, children and adolescents are the targets. It has a long-lasting impact on other young minds. Still shaken by the incident, Rutba’s classmate Zehra (14) shared: “I cannot get her out of my mind. She was always so cheerful. Now, every time I go to school, there is this lingering fear of a leopard pouncing upon me. I cannot think of going to school without my parents. I was unable to sleep well for days after my friend’s death. Rutba still comes in my dreams.”

Human-animal conflicts in Kashmir have resulted in hundreds of fatalities in the past few years. Data accessed by 101Reporters revealed that from 2006 to 2022, 234 people lost their lives and 2,918 received injuries in animal attacks. The number of deaths has particularly gone up between 2011 and 2020. In 2018, eight persons were mauled to death, while it was 11 the following year. The next two years saw five and nine deaths, respectively. So far this year, 12 deaths have been recorded.(GK)

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