Centre dismisses Kashmir protests after Article 370 as 'stray incidents' but rising number of pellet injuries tells a different tale

  • Twenty year old, Suhail Basheer Mir, has been left with a blurred vision after he was hit by a volley of pellets fired by the government forces in Rainwari area of Srinagar last Friday

  • He had just stepped out of the mosque after the late afternoon prayers, when he was showered with the pellets, some of which lay lodged in his body

  • A five year old girl Muneefa Nazir, who was sitting on the front seat of his uncle's motorcycle while the duo rode through Srinagar, was hit by a marble ball that was fired by forces from a slingshot

Editor's note: Owing to communications restrictions in Kashmir, this article is not accompanied by photographs of victims as they could not be transmitted from Srinagar.

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Suhail said that he has received at least five pellets in his right eye and has a blurred vision. The hospital staff attending to him at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital (SMHS) in Srinagar said that his optic nerve has been damaged and if he couldn’t recover by taking medicines, he will undergo surgery. "A large number of troopers had been deployed in the public square at Rainawari and as soon as I had stepped out of the mosque, a shower of pellets were fired," he said.

 Centre dismisses Kashmir protests after Article 370 as stray incidents but rising number of pellet injuries tells a different tale

Kashmiris attend a protest after Eid-al-Adha prayers at a mosque during restrictions after the scrapping of the special constitutional status for Kashmir by the government, in Srinagar, 12 August, 2019. Reuters

Hospital staff at the SMHS said that they have received at least 35 youth who were hit by pellets in the eyes since 5 August, when the special status of the state was revoked.

An official who was not authorised to speak to the media said on condition of anonymity that some youths didn't stay in the hospital fearing that they could be arrested by the police for taking part in the protests. He said that the policemen were checking on the patients regularly and pushing them to get discharged from the hospital so that the patients and their attendants couldn't speak to the media.

On Tuesday at ward no 8 of the SMHS hospital there were two patients who were being treated. A five-year-old girl Muneefa Nazir, who was sitting on the front seat of his uncle's motorcycle while the duo rode through Srinagar, was hit by a marble ball that was fired by forces from a slingshot. Her father, Nazir Ahmad Wani, of Dana Mazar area of Srinagar, said that she was accompanying her uncle who was distributing sacrificial meat among their relatives on Tuesday on Eid when she was hit in the eye.

A youth had received hundreds of pellets and was in a critical condition at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the SMHS hospital in Srinagar. His father refused to reveal the identity of his son who received pellets in both the eyes.

"The forces fired pellets without any provocation. Nobody had taken out protests and after the pellets were fired there was a commotion and people ran for safety. I was there at the Soura chowk when the forces showered the people with the pellets," he said.

Another Srinagar youth, Sameer Ahmad, said that last Tuesday he had come out of his house when he received a hail of pellets. His body was lacerated by over 130 pellets while his both eyes which were hit by the pellets were swollen. Wearing black glasses, he said that he undertook treatment at a private hospital and not at the government facility as he feared he could be arrested.

Earlier, after the revocation of Article 370, protests rocked the Kashmir region during which the pellets were used in large numbers in Srinagar city. The authorities have shut down the phones, snapped internet facilities, and fortified the Valley by increasing the number of troops in an already heavily militarised area. This has made it incredibly difficult for people who get injured to report at the hospitals.

Authorities said that at least two people were injured in the clashes between forces and protesters since last Monday, but said that the situation was by and large peaceful.

Government spokesperson, Rohit Kansal, said that "not a single" bullet was fired after 5 August, adding that the restrictions have also been eased after the decision to abrogate special status of the state was taken. He said that after the 15 August functions would conclude, the state could go about "easing" the restrictions further even in sensitive areas, whereas many restrictions have already been relaxed at many places in Kashmir.

Updated Date: Aug 15, 2019 10:57:56 IST