Human Rights

Kashmir — Victims Fearful even inside hospitals

Strong resentment against security forces as civilians believe the forces are trying to avenge the killing of eight CRPF personnel in South Kashmir on 25 June.

Srinagar, (13 July, 2016): Amidst a blanket curfew in Kashmir Valley following the killing of Burhan Wani, the ‘poster boy’ of new-age insurgency in Kashmir on 8 July, our team was able to visit a few hospitals in Srinagar district. We left early morning for Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital as the curfew by security forces was not declared nor were any stone-pelter visible on the streets, except for Batamaloo and Tengpora areas where a youth was killed on 10 July by armed troopers.

Upon reaching the hospital premises, we found a number of voluntary organisations engaged in relief activities for the benefit of injured victims and their attendants. When we enquired about the injured victims, some suspicious eyebrows were raised. We found policemen in khaki uniform doing rounds in the corridors. Later, we found them on even in the wards.

We straight away went to ‘ward no. 7’ where more than a dozen patients were being treated for pellet injuries in their eyes. There was already a journalist and a photographer working for an international news agency who were being rebuked by attendants as well as victims. They were aghast about the media and its role in the current mass protests that have already consumed 33 lives and have left an estimated 1500 persons injured. They were questioning the credibility of media agencies who, according to them, were failing their duty in depicting the true picture of the atrocities. It took some convincing to be able to talk to some of the victims of pellet injuries who refused to reveal their names or be photographed as they were fearful of repercussions by local police and army. They told us that police officials both in uniform and civvies were keeping a close watch trying to get their names and addresses for inquiry to be conducted later.

The victims belong to different areas, particularly to south Kashmir like Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian. Most of them were in the age group of 16-25. Some of them have been partially blinded while others have been completed blinded in one or both eyes. Doctors are walking an extra mile to restore the eyesight of these victims but they are apprehensive because the damage done by pellets to any part of body is lethal.

Victims alleged that forces targeted them intentionally while they were holding peaceful protests in most of the cases. Their resentment against security and police forces was very strong as they believe that the forces are trying to avenge the killing of eight CRPF personnel in South Kashmir on 25 June. They further alleged that despite the lethality of pellet guns and strong voices condemning its use, the army has not banned its use. As a consequence, they are now left physically challenged for the rest of their lives and even ruined their educational and career prospects.

Parents of these victims were apprehensive about the future of their wards and the monetary liability that they are going to incur in the coming time as pellet injuries are quite expensive to be treated when related to ophthalmology.

Earlier, eminent human rights activist Manan Bukhari had documented the lethality, barbarity and devastation caused by the use of pellet guns in his book “Scars of the Pellet” published earlier this year. He has documented case studies of pellet victims that depict how dark their future can be.

There was demand from all corners of civil society and human rights activists to ban the use of pellet guns in controlling unarmed protesters. But till now the state has not paid any heed towards banning the pellet gun that is devastating the lives of hundreds of youth. The doctors we consulted were too busy to answer us in detail. But despite their busy schedule, they intimated that the condition of scores among the injured victims is critical and the death toll in the coming days is bound to rise.

In other wards, where the bullet injured victims are being treated, their condition was similar with the exception that they had suffered injuries to other parts of their bodies instead of eyes. Similar to the pellet victims, they also refused to mention their names or be photographed.

Some of the injured related that they were not even a part of the protests but were intentionally targeted by the troopers and police. Some related the agonizing ordeals of how they reached hospitals in Srinagar as they and their attendants were beaten in many places by police and army. They are further apprehensive that they may be arrested by the police who are omnipresent in the hospitals. The victims and attendants were all praise for the commendable job being rendered by the different voluntary organisations and common people of Srinagar towards mitigating their distress and standing by them in their hour of grief.

Similar views were expressed by pharmacists and doctors too as the volunteers managed to arrange a continuous supply of blood to blood banks as well as catering to the shortage of medicines by arranging it through local networks.

Other hospitals visited by our team include JVC Bemina, GB Pant Hospital Sonawar, B&J Barzulla and SKIMS Soura. In all these hospitals, most of the victim stories were similar and so are the efforts by voluntary organisations and local committees.

The author is writer-activist based in Srinagar. He may be contacted at islamicmushtaq%yahoo.co.in

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