SRINAGAR: Owais Farooq Rather, a teenager, may not be able to see again. A 16-year-old boy from Prichoo area of district Pulwama in south Kashmir, Owais has multiple pellet injuries in both his eyes, face, neck and chest.
On Thursday morning, he was operated upon in his severely damaged left eye by senior doctors in the ophthalmology theatre at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital, which has received more than 600 pellet victims in the past 48 days.
“As of now, it is difficult to comment on anything. Initially, we have fixed the artificial lens for temporary vision. Several pellets are still stuck in both his eyes. On preliminary basis, we have removed the pellet that had hit near his retina, but things would be clear only after performing one or two more surgeries in his left eye,” said a doctor attending him.
The doctor said that chances of Owais regaining vision in his left eye were “very bleak”. The pellet may have pierced his retina.
“His right eye has also been partially damaged but the injury is not that grave. As of now, there is blurry vision in his right eye but hopefully, he will be able to see things clearly very soon,” the doctor said.
Owais, a Class 10 student of Government Higher Secondary School Pulwama, is one among dozens of youth who were injured in Prichoo area of Pulwama on Wednesday. A youth was also killed by government forces in the firing and another youth is in critical condition at SMHS hospital.
“Peaceful protests were going on near the fruit mandi at Prichoo when the forces blocked the main road and started indiscriminate firing and teargas shelling on protestors. It resulted in the death of one person and injuries to many others. Owais was one among them,” said his maternal uncle, Irshad Ahmad, who was also part of the protest rally.
Among the injured, more than 30 were brought to SMHS hospital, mostly with pellet injuries. More than a dozen people were hit by pellets in their eyes.
Lying subconscious and writhing in pain on his bed in ward no 7 of the hospital, Owais is surrounded by a number of his friends and relatives. Among the attendants is Naseema Bano, his mother. She sobs silently sitting beside him. She keeps asking the doctors one question: “Will my son be able to see again?
Naseema said that she was unaware of her son’s injury till Thursday morning, as his son had gone to his maternal uncle’s home a few days ago.
“I called my brother twice on Wednesday to know about my son’s whereabouts after I heard that a youth had been martyred in the area. My brother assured me that Owais was fine and had gone to a nearby shop. He didn’t want me to know anything because the situation was very tense at that time,” she said in a low voice.
“It was about 10am the next morning that I came to know that he had been hit by pellets. At first I couldn’t recognise him as his face was swollen and his eyes completely damaged. My heart bleeds when I see him like this. I don’t know if he will be able to lead a normal life again,” she said and broke down. She cursed herself for the day when she let her son go to his uncle’s home.
Owais’s friends alleged that the CRPF personnel did not allow them to carry Owais to the hospital.
“We carried him on our shoulders for nearly a kilometer, after which we managed to get a private vehicle to reach Srinagar. Even ambulances were not allowed to travel,” said one of his friends who accompanied him to hospital.