Is the government turning a blind eye or has it become blinded with hatred?
Srinagar: There is no let-up in the use of pellet guns by government forces in Kashmir, not even in capital Srinagar. The police and paramilitary are showing neither restraint nor any sign of restraint. It’s been a week since Rajnath Singh, India’s home minister, came to Srinagar and claimed to have told the paramilitary CRPF to minimise the use of pellets, but each day since then the CRPF has continued to fire pellets at unarmed crowds all across the Valley, injuring hundreds.
People in the prime of their youth, adolescents and little children, continue to be blinded, maimed and disfigured by these sharp iron pieces of various shapes — triangular, hexagonal, needle-shaped — designed to inflict maximum injury. Doctors and organisations like Amnesty International have said that nowhere in the world have pellets been used in this manner and on such scale. The J&K High Court has called for an immediate stop to the use of pellet guns. The CRPF Director-General and the army’s Lieutenant-General have regretted the injuries to young people and promised restraint. But the troops on the ground seem to have received no instructions, or are so habitual to impunity that they continue to aim at the face, the chest, the stomach. On Thursday, they opened fire on a crowd of villagers that had come to Srinagar. There were families, women and children, but such was the unprovoked, indiscriminate firing that a witness described the scene as evocative of Jalian Wala Bagh.
On Friday, the day when India’s leading eye-surgeon, Dr Natarajan, described the situation in Srinagar hospitals as disastrous, and said he had never seen such pellet injuries before, 40 new patients with pellet injuries were admitted to SMHS hospital, 20 of them hit in the eyes. Among them was 23-year-old Mudasir Ali of Srinagar’s Mehjoor Nagar, who, lying on bed number 15 of the ophthalmologic ward, was on Saturday still screaming in pain, both his eyes having undergone surgery, the chances of regaining eyesight “quite low”. “Haya khudaya moudus ho! Oh my God, I am dying with pain. Please call the doctor, I am going to die,” he screamed, his face and body contorting with each word he spoke.
Mudasir’s father, standing beside his son, was holding his hand and saying comforting words. To this correspondent he lamented his own suffering, “I can’t bear to see him in this pain. My heart bleeds. If only I could somehow rid him of his pain, if only I could take it upon myself.”
Mudasir’s family said that he had gone to offer Friday prayers. “There were no protests going on at that time. After the prayers the government forces just opened fire at the crowd. Mudasir fell to the ground when pellets pierced his eyes. This unprovoked firing led to clashes with police, in which many more were hit by pellets,” said his uncle, Mohammad Ayub.
“He was brought to the hospital by passersby. We did not know that he was injured for about two hours,” Ayub said.
He also said that police fired directly at the eyes. “They targeted the eyes, as is evident from those who were injured there. Most of the injured have pellets in their face,” he said.
Expressing anguish over the continuing use of pellets, Ayub said, “The government’s calls for stopping the use of pellets are hogwash. They are just lying.”
Doctors who operated on Mudasir said that pellets were removed from both his eyes. The cavities that the pellets created have been filled, they said. “There were two metal pellets in his eyes which were removed after surgery. There is one more pellet that has entered one of his eyes laterally,” a doctor wishing anonymity told Kashmir Reader.
He also said that the revival of Mudasir’s eyesight depended on how he responds to the surgery. “Nothing can be said as of now. Whether or not he regains the eyesight cannot be predicted, but the chances are quite low,” the doctor said.