Blinded by Pellets in 2016, Kashmiri Teen Insha Mushtaq Clears Her Class 10 Boards

The 16 year old, who has undergone several surgeries, was hit in the face after she opened her window during the Kashmir unrest in 2016.

Insha Mushtaq, 15, lost vision in both eyes in July 2016 after being hit by shotgun pellets. Credit: Amnesty International

Insha lost vision in both eyes in July 2016 after being hit by shotgun pellets. Credit: Amnesty International

Srinagar: In a remarkable feat, 16-year-old Insha Mushtaq, who became the face of pellet victims who lost their vision during the 2016 uprising in Kashmir, has cleared her class 10 board examinations. The results were declared on January 9.

The teen gave the examinations with the aid of a helper who wrote the answers as she dictated. Despite being declared ‘qualified’ in her mathematics paper, Insha will have to appear for it again as it was noted that ‘she needs to improve’.

The news has spread joy in Kashmir. Insha’s father, Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, who was engaged as a driver with the state-run Motor Garages Department, started receiving congratulatory calls and messages soon after the results were declared and the news of Insha’s success began to spread online.

“We are very happy today,” Lone tells The Wire, adding that Insha worked hard to memorise her lessons with the help of her teachers. Over the past year, Insha recorded the lessons she had with a home tutor, later listening to them again in order to memorise them. “Everyone supported her to continue her studies, including her teachers, classmates and our relatives,” says Lone.

Soon after the news broke, social media congratulated her, with people sharing photos and calling her an inspiration for continuing to study despite the grievous pellet injuries she suffered.

Living in the dark

Insha was hit by pellets on the evening of July 11, 2016, three days after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed when she opened a window to look outside her home in Sedow village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

“I was at home when I was hit by hundreds of pellets, mostly on my face,” Insha was quoted as saying in an Amnesty International report titled “Losing Sight in Kashmir”, on the impact of pellet-firing guns. The report had also noted that many school and university students who had been hit in the eyes continue to have learning difficulties.

“They (pellets) even went inside my mouth,” Insha said. “I want the forces who fired the pellets to be punished, but I know the state does not care. I have no faith in their system.”

Over 1,200 persons were reportedly hit by pellets in their eyes during the summer 2016 uprising which left them partially or completely blind. Nearly 14% of the pellet victims were below the age of 15.

In its report, Amnesty International last year had called for a “complete and immediate ban” on the use of pellet shotguns in Kashmir. The report noted that the use of the shotguns in Kashmir had “blinded hundreds and killed at least 14 people since July 2016″.

Despite undergoing treatment for months and several surgeries in New Delhi and Mumbai hospitals, Insha has not able to see anything even after she returned to Kashmir in February last year, only just a “faint light in my left eye and nothing in my right eye.”

Before July 2016, she used to come home from school and first finish her homework before going out to play with her cousin sisters. Her favourite subjects in school were science, mathematics and physics. But July 11 changed her life forever, leaving her in darkness. Even though she’s started to get used to it.

“Now I can’t even eat or go to bathroom without help. My school bag and my books are lying in a corner,” she says, disappointed at her immobility and her dependence on her parents. “I can’t look at my books again. I wish I could read again and go to my school again. Now I’m dependent on others.”

“I can’t make out if it’s a day or night time as it’s all the same for me,” she says, adding that she hoped to resume her studies and attend school again. She also misses her classmates and friends.

“But what I miss the most are my eyes,” she says.

Insha has not lost hope despite losing her vision. Energetic, intelligent and articulate, she also spoke of what she could do with her life even if she could not see anything. When asked what she wants to become as she grows up, she said she had wanted to become a doctor. “Maybe I can be an engineer now,” she says with a bright smile.

Majid Maqbool is a journalist and editor based in Srinagar, Kashmir.