Thumbs, fingers lost to devious new weapon: Shell that explodes in the hand

Srinagar: A new ‘cylinder-like’ ammunition, that explodes only when it is gripped, has appeared in the arsenal of CRPF and Jammu and Kashmir Police. Resembling a teargas shell, it is thrown at a crowd of protesters and then it just lies there, until someone picks it, to hurl it back, and then it explodes in the hand. Dozens of youngsters have been injured by it. Some have lost their hand.
Meet 16-year-old Iqbal Ahmad Mir. He is receiving treatment at the plastic surgery ward at SKIMS, in Srinagar. Iqbal has to sit on a trolley because all the 32 beds of the ward are occupied. He keeps his injured right hand on a pillow, because it lessens the excruciating pain. His little finger and tips of the ring and middle finger have been amputated. A part of his thumb has been revascularised.
“Most of the patients here have sustained injures in hands. We have been told by these patients that an ammunition similar in appearance to teargas shell had exploded in their hands,” the doctor looking after Iqbal, requesting anonymity, said. “The injury sustained by Iqbal is called ‘mangled’. It is a state in which skin, bone and circulation of blood is damaged.”
Iqbal’s hand was damaged just the other day, on Friday, July 29. He tried to throw ammunition that was fired at a procession in Beeham village in Ganderbal.
“That day, government forces did not allow Friday prayers at the Jamia Masjid of Ganderbal. Elders in the district decided to offer prayers in local mosques. I offered the prayer at mosque Hamza in my village Beeham,” Iqbal told Kashmir Reader.
“While prayers were being offered inside the mosque, CRPF men went berserk outside. They entered homes of people and broke window panes, beat inmates. After this, a protest march, led by elders, was taken out towards Ganderbal chowk. The forces blocked it with teargas shells. Among the teargas shells they fired was a cylinder-like object that remained unexploded. I attempted to throw it back. It exploded just when I touched it,” Iqbal said.
Iqbal said that while a teargas shell spins to emit gas in all directions, the object lay stagnant, white in colour, and did not emit anything.
Protesters in Kashmir, in addition to rocks, have been throwing teargas shells back at forces whenever they get a chance.
In the other corner of the plastic surgery ward lay Mukhtar Ahmad, 24 years old, resident of Budgam. His right hand was strapped to his right leg, covered by a cage-like case to protect it from infection. According to his attendant, his thumb had been amputated. Mukhtar was still unaware of it.
“On Friday, I was part of a protest at Mirgund, where police caught me and beat me like they did many others. I was told to throw a teargas shell back at people if I wanted to be spared. A teargas shell-like object was placed in my hand. I was about to throw it when it exploded. The cops left me then,” Mukhtar told Kashmir Reader.
Both Iqbal and Mukhtar were operated on Saturday. Mukhtar’s attendant said that after the operation, the doctors returned his amputated thumb. It was sent to Budgam for burial, without being shown to Mukhtar.