Sopore: “It was only for the first nine days after my son was blinded when people used to visit us, but now nobody comes. We are very poor, nobody comes to help us,” said Rukhsana, mother of 19-year-old Imtiyaz Ahmad Sofi, an auto mechanic by profession until he was blinded by pellets fired by government forces on the day of Eid-ul-Azha in Sopore town. Three surgeries have been performed on his eyes at SMHS Hospital in Srinagar but there is still no hope of his regaining any vision.
“We have to take him at least twice to SMHS hospital in Srinagar for check-up and sometimes we don’t have any money to pay for our travel,” his mother told Reader at the hospital. “His father Ghulam Mohiuddin Sofi is an old person and he is not in a position to work. My elder son is a labourer but sometimes he finds work and sometimes he does not. We are in a very difficult position.”
Imtiyaz Ahmad’s home is a small house in the Tarzoo village of Sopore. It is clear at first sight that the young man is blind in both eyes. In his childhood, Imtiyaz was injured by a grenade. He said he was playing with his friends in an orchard near his home when his friends pointed at a ball-shaped object. He picked it up and threw it on the ground, he said. It exploded and injured him in his forehead and leg.
“I don’t fear anyone but Allah,” Imtiyaz said. “Even if they continue to blind us, we are never going to stop our struggle for freedom. So let them do whatever they can do.”
His mother, though, was not so optimistic. With tears rolling down her cheeks, she said, “He was a ray of hope for his old parents. But after this episode, everything has changed in our life,” Rukhsana said.
Imtiyaz narrated the incident that led to his blinding by pellets. On the morning of September 13, there was curfew in entire Sopore, but the people of Tarzoo village, Imtiyaz said, gathered and began to walk towards the Eid Gah in Noorgah area of Sopore. “When we reached near the army camp at Tarzoo, we were stopped by the army. But we didn’t stop there and reached the Eid Gah on time for the prayers. After we finished the prayers, all the people took out a rally. We were about to reach main chowk Sopore when government forces who were present there fired pellets and teargas shells indiscriminately on the crowd. I was hit in both the eyes and other body parts,” Imtiyaz said.
“Some of my friends took me on their shoulders to sub-district hospital Sopore, from where I was referred to Srinagar. Our ambulance avoided the highway route as it was strict curfew and we went through my native village Tarzoo. While in the ambulance I told one of my friends that when we reach near our home, he should stop the ambulance and call someone from my home. When we reached my home, he called out my mother, but when she saw me bleeding she started crying and I then insisted that she should not come with me in the ambulance. I did not want to have her crying all the way; it would have been more difficult for me than the pain of my injury,” Imtiyaz said.
“Three surgeries were done on my left eye, one by Dr Sabiya in September and two by Dr Natraj in September and December. They were successful in removing the pellets from the left eye but I still cannot see anything because my right eye is still having pellets inside. I am not able to see anything even with my left eye after three surgeries,” Imtiyaz said.
“You know, I used to be mortified at seeing a blind person, but now I am myself blind,” the boy rued. “I am a forgotten story. Nobody comes to visit me anymore. But I have full faith in Allah. I am ready to face anything that Allah has written in my destiny.”