Srinagar: Twenty-year-old Rifat Hussain of Nainil Anantang is disabled forever. He has lost the vision in his left eye and his right one has blurred sight after he was fired upon with pellets by security forces while protesting over the death of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Burhan Wani.
Rifat said he was protesting peacefully as part of the march that ambled along when the forces came running towards them and fired pellets in which he lost the eyesight. He has been admitted at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital since and is attended by his brother there. His parents don’t know that he lost the eyesight as they couldn’t be contacted due to the snapping of cellphone services in South Kashmir including Anantang. But Rifat who is a driver has no regrets.
"I have the blurred vision in one of the eyes. It doesn’t really matter," he said. At Kashmir’s main hospital, SMHS, there are over 120 people who have are being treated for pellet injuries and a large number of them can’t see forever, said Nisar Ul Hassan, medical consultant at the facility, who has attended a large number of patients.
"Some 70-80 patients have received eye surgeries and they mayn’t be able to see again," he said. Hassan said that the pellet remains a lethal weapon and the strikes on the vital body parts including eyes and head leaves people disabled and even claims lives.
At ward no 7 of the SMHS hospital young boys are writhing in pain and are wearing the eye glasses while being attended to mostly by the male members of their families. After the shower of pellets that they came under, many of them were shifted to the hospitals by other protesters who were unhurt and some by their male relatives. The South Kashmir areas remain under unprecedented restrictions and face curfews that has blocked the movement of people. The protests were triggered across Kashmir and the people had poured on the streets after the death of Burhan Wani. Not only in the South Kashmir area of Tral, home town of Wani, did people hit the streets in large numbers the protests took place also in Central Kashmir areas of Srinagar and Budgam and North Kashmir areas of Bandipora, Baramulla and Kupwara.
At the SMHS hospital a Baramulla boy was being treated for pellet injuries including in his eye. Fearing reprisal from forces, he didn’t disclose his identity, but said that he had his other friends joined the protests in large numbers on the day they received the news of the death of Wani.
"We protested in large numbers, but the forces fired tear gas shells and the pellets which left me and many of my other friends injured," he said.
Irsahd Ahmad, a youth from Pakerhpora area of Pulwama, which otherwise remains calm, said that he took part in the protests on Monday against the excesses committed by government forces. “The forces have terrorized people. A number of innocent people have been killed and the anger against them was genuine,” he said. Irsahd had joined the protests on Monday when he received the pellets in his eye and is being treated at the hospital. “ I have blurred vision in both the eyes,” he said.
Irfan Ahmad, a youth from Anantang area, said that the forces targeted their eyes while firing the pellets.
“Earlier it was that the forces would fire the pellets on the legs but this time they targeted the eyes and the head,” he said.
Special Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), SN Srivastava, however said that the pellets are non-lethal weapons.
"The lethal weapons are those which kill a person. We don’t use lethal guns on protesters and instead use non-lethal means like the tear smoke shells and the pellet guns. It is very rare that the pellets hit the face or the head," the CRPF official said.
Hasan, who as the president of the Doctors Association of Kashmir (DAK), has been fighting for the ban on pellet guns said that these lethal weapons are already banned in different parts of world. "We treated a patient who had received the pellets in his head due to which he is now paraplegic,” the SMHS doctor said.