'Eye For an Eye': In Srinagar, Pellet Guns Blind Indiscriminately

The cases of a salesman and an autorickshaw driver in the city reflect the predicament of many families across the Valley.

Srinagar: Lying motionless on the bed, the young boy opened his eyes gently. With a deep sigh, he touched his mother’s hand. Tears ran down the corner of his right eye.

Haris Ahmad is a victim of metallic pellets, used as a “crowd control weapon” by security forces in Kashmir, which is facing an unprecedented clampdown after the Narendra Modi-led government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s autonomous status, that gave a separate flag and constitution to the state, on August 5.

‘It’s a miracle that he is alive’

For the past three days, 17-year-old Ahmad from Fateh Kadal locality of Srinagar, the capital city of Kashmir, has been battling for his life at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), the region’s tertiary care institute.

“The pellets have made a deep wound on the left side of his neck,” said a young doctor who was on duty in the hospital’s Ward No. 2, where Ahmad is admitted.

“Some pellets have punctured the outer surface of his stomach as well,” the doctor continued. “Pellets are stuck in his face, head,
neck and shoulders.”

Haris Ahmad lies critical in his hospital bed. Photo: The Wire

“It is a miracle he (Ahmad) is alive,” another doctor said. “There is a CT scan report as well which has confirmed the presence of foreign round objects in his body.”

Though Ahmad, who recently cleared the Class 10 exam, was shifted out of the intensive care unit on Thursday afternoon, doctors said, his condition remains “critical”.

According to the victim’s uncle, Farooq Ahmad Batoo, Ahmad left home after dinner at around 9:15 pm on August 20 to buy himself a cold drink from a local shop.

Batoo said his nephew ran into friends who had gathered at the shop front. The boys began playing games on their mobile phones.

“We were all busy playing on our mobiles when a police vehicle whizzed past the shop. Suddenly, we heard a sound, which we realised was the sound of bullets being fired. The next moment, Ahmad was down on the ground in a pool of blood,” one of Ahmad’s friends who claimed to be an eyewitness to the incident told The Wire.

Thursday marks the 20th straight day on which Kashmir has been under restrictions on public movement. All means of communication, including mobile and internet services, remain blocked.

Ahmad is the eldest of the three siblings. His brother studies in Class 10 and his sister in Class 1. Their father, Abdul Rahim Batoo, runs a meat shop in the locality.

Ahmad assisted his father financially by working as a salesman at a chemist shop in the Karan Nagar locality.

Also read: Kashmir Running Short of Life Saving Drugs as Clampdown Continues

“They want to kill and blind our young boys with pellets,” Ahmad’s mother, Naseema, said as she waited in the hospital corridor.

Naseema’s predicament was one the whole hospital recognised. “They have snatched our identity,” said an attendant at the ward, referring to the reading down of Article 370. “Now, they are targeting our young.”

At the Batoo house, a modest single-storey building, neighbours sat in a huddle waiting for news from the hospital. “Theirs’ is a poor family and they have been struggling to make ends meet,” said Maqsood, a neighbour of the Batoos.

‘I can’t see anything’

A 10-minute walk away from the Batoos, Farooq Ahmad Qureshi sat on the patio of his two-storey house looking into the mirror, with goggles on.

“Look what they have done to him,” Qureshi’s sister Mahjabeena sighed. A pellet has pierced the retina of 40-year-old man’s left eye, doctors told them.

After initials treatment, Qureshi was sent home by doctors of the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital and asked to return after a fortnight.

“I overheard doctors saying that my eye is dead and that it is a showpiece now,” Qureshi said in a soft tone.

Also watch: In Srinagar Hospital Ward, Pellet Victims Belie Official Claims of ‘Calm’

Wiping his injured eye with a piece of cotton cloth, Qureshi said he was on his way home on August 11 after dropping his son Farhaan, a Class 3 student, at a private tutor’s home when he saw a group of boys staging a protest.

“Suddenly, a police vehicle passed by and a policeman from inside it fired pellets all around. I, too, was hit,” said Qureshi, an
autorickshaw driver by profession.

Almost two weeks since the hit, his eye is still bruised and traces of coagulated blood are visible from even a distance. “I can’t see
anything with my left eye. My life is finished,” he said.

“The doctors have asked me to avoid moving out and protect the eye from infection. Who will feed my family if I stay home? Who will pay Farhaan’s school fee?” he said, as Farhan sat listening.

The state government has maintained complete silence over the number of persons injured in the protests held since August 5.

Many doctors whom The Wire spoke to at SMHS and SKIMS said there were verbal orders from the administration of the hospitals not to speak to media.

“We are giving preliminary treatment to the patients and sending them home. The patients are being admitted only in extreme cases,” said a senior doctor at SMHS.