SRINAGAR: “The patient has lung contusion. It seems she has been hit by hundreds of steel pellets. Her X-Ray shows it. The pellets have pierced her lungs. She will recover once the scars on the lungs will begin to heal. It will take a long time,” says the doctor treating Reenu Akhtar, 23, in the ICU of SMHS Hospital in Srinagar.
As her husband, Arshad Ahmad, helps her sit up slightly on the bed, she screams due to “unimaginable pain”. She speaks in wails and sobs.
Akhtar was one among the seven family members, six ladies and one boy, grievously injured when a police team fired several pellet cartridges inside their kitchen where they were having tea on Monday at Simthan, Bijbehara, near the grove of poplars, lining the Jammu-Srinagar highway on both sides, popularly known as the Green Tunnel.
“It was around 7 am. There was complete silence. Not even a trace of protest,” Ahmad told Kashmir Reader. “All the family members were in the kitchen having tea.”
Ahmad said that suddenly, the station house officer (SHO) Bijbehara, Arshid Khan, along with policemen and SOG barged into the courtyard of their house.
“He (the SHO) fired several pellet cartridges straight into the kitchen from the window. The pellets broke the window pane. In just a minute, eight persons of our family, including my wife were screaming, in a pool of blood. There was blood flowing on the floor.”
According to the officials, a single cartridge of pellets consists of 600 metal balls.
“As if it was not enough, the SHO and his men fired teargas canisters into our house and courtyard, indiscriminately. They fired around 30 teargas canisters,” Ahmad said. “The shelling was so severe that children in the house turned unconscious due to the fear.”
Ahmad said that police later went to the Masjid.
“We were struggling to find cars to carry the injured. We were about to ask our neighbours to lend us cars when police entered the Masjid. The policemen took over the Masjid loudspeakers. Feigning to be locals in need of help, they called out to villagers to come save them from the wrath of the police. The villagers came in hordes to save them,” Ahmad said.
“The moment the villagers came out, the SHO opened indiscriminately fired (tear-smoke) shells and pellets on the people. It triggered protests and intense stone-pelting,” Ahmad said.
Later, when cars had been arranged to take the injured to Bijbehara hospital, police blocked the way.
“We were not allowed to reach the highway. We took twists and turns through the inner village roads to finally reach the highway,” Ahmad said. “The police also burnt down hay used for the cattle and for apple packing in our village. They did not allow fire extinguishers to reach the spot.”
When the cars reached Bijbehara hospital, four of the women patients, including Akhtar, were sent to the SMHS Hospital while the rest were treated there.
“My brother’s wife, Ruby, lost one of her eyes to pellets. She was operated on by doctors, but she could not regain her sight. She has two sons. She was weeping and wailing all the time. The rest are thankfully fine,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad, who has one daughter, said his wife Akhtar would take time to recover as pellets have pierced her lungs and caused bleeding.
“We are really worried. We have been punished for doing nothing. I have no idea how to cope with this tragedy that has befallen on our family,” Ahmad said.