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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Terror and mayhem caught up with a Kashmiri rickshaw-puller who fled to New Delhi to escape constant violence and poverty in his troubled state.
Fed up with living continuously under the shadow of violence in Kashmir, 21-year-old Mohammad Ashraf Dar arrived in the relatively safer national capital on Friday to join his kin in making a living off rickshaw-pulling.
Ashraf, who is from Anantnag district of south Kashmir, was waiting for a shop owner to load his ware on his rickshaw when a bomb went off a few steps from where he was standing in central Delhi's Gaffer Market area.
"My ears were ringing and the first thing I saw was my uncles lying in a pool of blood barely 10 steps from where I was standing," Ashraf said.
"One of my uncles was already dead. The other one was still breathing when I picked him up and took him to the hospital. I cannot believe this has happened to me," said Ashraf, who himself received injuries in the bombing.
Five bombs exploded in quick succession in crowded markets and streets in New Delhi on September 13, killing 23 people.
Ashraf is no stranger to violence but said he still cannot come to terms with reality post the blasts. "From my childhood days I have seen violence in my state, sometimes as closely as last Saturday. This is what I was trying to get away from. I thought I would be safe in Delhi. But it seems now it's the same everywhere."
He is preparing to abandon his dream of making a living in Delhi and go back home as soon as doctors at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital allow his uncle Farooq Ahmad Parry to leave. Ashraf's neighbours have taken the body of his uncle Qasim Ahmad Parry to his inconsolable family in Anantnag for burial.
Despite his trauma, Ashraf said he is touched by acts of kindness of Delhi citizens who helped him rush his uncles to the hospital and the shopkeepers of Gaffer market who raised the money for medical treatment.
"Why do people kill the innocent? Who do they want to target? The Gaffer market shopkeepers are all Hindus who did not even know me well. Yet they did all they could to help me in my hour of need," Ashraf said.
In the confusion following the blasts, Ashraf said he lost one of their three rickshaws, the sole means of their livelihood. A school dropout, Ashraf took up odd jobs to support his family in Kashmir, a state rocked by violence since a revolt against New Delhi's rule began in 1989, killing thousands of people.
Militancy in the Valley has forced people to migrate to other states in search of employment.
Now facing the same uncertain future he had hoped to escape, Ashraf said he would appeal to the Kashmir government for employment.