SRINAGAR: After a week of Indian home minister Rajnath Singh telling government forces “to refrain from using pellet guns as much as possible”, 57 patients injured with pellets were admitted to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital between Friday and Saturday morning, 33 of them hit in the eye. These are the hospital administration’s figures, of just one hospital in the Valley and of just one day.
Abid Mehraj Shah is on ventilator in the hospital’s ICU, unconscious since he was admitted on Friday evening. His pulse and blood pressure are being monitored on a screen through electrical wires attached to his body.
According to his friend, who wished to remain anonymous, Abid was part of the first of the four protests that were held in Tahab area of Pulwama district.
“The protests began after the Friday prayers, when the police and CRPF burst teargas shells,” the friend, who was also part of the protest, said. “One shell fell close to Abid and he began to run for safety. He had run hardly a few steps when he skidded on the road and fell. Then the police came near him, hit him first with gun butts and then with their legs. Hurling abuses at him, they picked him up, held him by his arms, and then another cop shot him with pellets,” the friend described.
As per hospital records, pellets have entered his face, left eye, neck and chest.
In ward number 11 is another of the injured from Tahab, 17-year-old Aqib Khursheed, his left eye damaged by pellets. He was shifted to this ward because of lack of space in the medicine ward downstairs.
“After people saw what the police had done to Abid, the protest at Tahab intensified. Youth burnt Mehboba’s effigy, raised freedom slogans. The troops taunted them with raised thumbs. We were at a distance of three meters from them. While some of us were shouting, others started throwing rocks, at which the police immediately fired pellets, which hit me and many others,” Aqib recalled.
His two friends and neighbours rushed him to hospital. A third friend, who had also been part of the protest, visited Asif on Saturday at the hospital.
He said, “After the news about the injured spread, villagers, both men and women, came out in large numbers and protested. They, too, were fired at. Scores were injured until the fall of dusk.”