By Dr Mahee Zakariya and Dr Aaqib Hussain
The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Memory is often related to what we see and hear. We remain first-hand witness to what we see and it percolates deep into our memory. In a way, eyes and memory are blood related.
A 576-mega pixel human eye, with 2 million parts and 1 million nerve fibres is the second most complex organ after brain, making it one of the most fascinating and incredible creations. About 80 percent of the memories are determined by a human eye.
One does not lose his memories and consciousness if his eye stops working. In fact, a person who is not born blind, still has the privilege to dream and hope for survival in a free and just world.
Soon after the news the killing of popular, 22-year-old militant commander Burhan Muzaffer Wani spread, the government imposed curfew in Kashmir to prevent people from reaching his hometown, Tral.
Mobile services and Internet facilities were blocked. But in spite of the clampdown, the Valley witnessed one of the largest public funerals in recent times, attended by tens of thousands of people at his hometown of Tral. Besides, numerous funerals in absentia were held across Kashmir.
Following the killing of Burhan, protests that broke out all over the Valley were met with brute force. Till today, the protests are continuing with no apparent signs of dying down. Police and paramilitary personnel have killed about 40 people in the firing. The number of injured is said to be 2000. Most of the injuries are above waist with the clear intention of causing damage to vital organs.
Pellet gun has been used extensively to quell the protests leading to over 100 eye injuries.
Ophthalmologists working round-the-clock at the SMHS Hospital say they have performed about 90 surgeries in the past five days and many of the victims might lose eyesight completely or partially.
In the surgical ICU lies 14-year-old Insha, a class 9 student aspiring to become a doctor, with fully damaged left eye and the entire face disfigured with pellets. In the same ward, a 28-year-old youth from Kupwara who was shot with pellet gun lies bed-ridden with his left side of face bandaged unaware that his left eye has been removed.
The doctors in the hospitals say that it is getting increasingly difficult to attend the injured as the numbers keep swelling with time. Doctors at many private hospitals are volunteering at SMHS and SKIMS to treat the injured. In the surgery ward of SMHS a 6-year-old girl is admitted with pellet injuries. She was fired upon when she had gone outside to get medicines along with her father and sister. Her sister lays bed-ridden in the same ward. “We get insane sometimes, it is gory, it gets on our nerves, and how can they fire and massacre like this? Sometimes we operate on a person with a dead body lying on the next table”, said a doctor working at the emergency theatre of a hospital.
Outside the hospitals emotions run high, the attendants raise slogans, whenever an injured is bought to a hospital the volunteers form a human chain around him and within no time he is taken inside the emergency theatre.
Many injured have no family members with them and we struggle to inform their families.
“A few died without anyone knowing about their identity,” said a volunteer outside a city hospital.
Thousands of attendants are provided free food and refreshments daily by various NGOs and local mohalla committees. The presence of volunteers is seen everywhere in the hospitals. Many organisations have kept their ambulances handy for transporting the sick and injured and provid free medicines to the injured. Blood donation camps have been organised.
“We have registered around 100 people for donating blood and we will call them whenever needed, kids as young as 8 and 10-years-old volunteered, but we sent them back, this shows the spirit of our youth and India will never be able to break this spirit,” said an organiser of a blood donation drive.
Various doctors complained of the troubles they encounter while reaching hospitals. We are stopped searched and intimidated by the forces manning the roads.
“We often get abused, but we have learnt to live it with it now and we ignore it, rather than arguing with them it is better that we reach our hospital and save lives” says a doctor working at a private hospital in Srinagar who also has been volunteering at government hospitals. A nurse, Firdosa resident of Tangmarg, walked 40 kilometers to reach her hospital in Srinagar. Many ambulances carrying injured and doctors have been attacked and damaged by forces.
On the ground, people are extremely angry the way Indian media has covered the happenings. A team of Aljazeera news channel was attacked in SMHS hospital after people mistook them as journalists from Indian media. It was after they revealed their identity people let them go.
“How would an Indian feel if someone from Britain says that Bhagat Singh or Chandra Shekhar Azad should have been burnt with garbage? How can they say it for our sons? The Indian media is jingoistic,” yelled an angry old man apparently referring to the media campaign against the public funeral of Burhan Wani.
Some media houses had raised concern about the handing of Burhan’s body to his family and instead suggested that it should have been burnt in garbage. A need for truthful and just journalism is what masses want. Malcom X once said, “If you are not careful the media will have you hating the oppressed and loving the oppressor.”
The government has clamped down on the telecommunication with an iron fist. Mobile telephony and Internet has been totally cut off. But this hasn’t deterred people from taking to other means of protest. In the absence of Internet and social media, graffiti glorifying Burhan have been painted all over Lal Chowk and other parts of Kashmir.
Because of the continuing restrictions the local population has been subjected to immense hardships, with shortage of medicines, baby-food and other essential commodities. The movement of patients for procedures like dialysis has been affected. The situation has prompted cancellation of hundreds of marriage functions. Amidst all this bloodshed and mayhem, the annual Amaranth yatra has been going on smoothly. People are seen making way for pilgrims during protests. A woman named Aaliya Mir from Noorbagh has been attending an unwell pilgrim from Meerut (UP) at a city hospital for the past two days.
In Bijbehara locals rescued dozens of pilgrims trapped under a bus after an accident, prompting some netizen to write, “We Kashmiris teach life, Sir!”