SRINAGAR: “Don’t touch it again and again. How many times have I told you it can cause infection,” says Mehbooba to her 17-year-old son in ward 8 of Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. Irfan Ahmad Ganaie, a Class 12 student, keeps fiddling with the cotton placed between dark glasses and his left eye, which has been badly damaged by pellets.
“See what they have done to him. He was only trying to save his drowning friend. What was his fault?” Mehbooba asks this reporter.
Irfan was hit by pellets when government troops were firing pellets and teargas shells to disperse people who were trying to fish out the body of a drowned schoolboy, Danish Sultan, in Palpora area of Srinagar on Thursday evening.
“After having our lunch, I along with Danish and other friends were playing in a nearby cricket field. Later I left for home but Danish went to the other side of the bridge to play carom with his friends. When I came to know of Danish’s drowning, I immediately rushed to the spot,” Irfan said.
“When I reached there, hundreds of people, including women, had already assembled on the river banks. But as we were trying to look for him, forces started throwing stones and then fired pellets at us. I tried to run away but my foot got stuck in the mud of the river bank. It caught the attention of a CRPF man and he fired pellets directly into my eye,” Irfan said amid tears.
“Everything before me went dark thereafter. When I regained consciousness, I found myself on this hospital bed,” Irfan said.
Irfan’s elder brother said that when Danish jumped into the river, the troops threw a number of stones and bricks at him, one of which hit him in the head and caused his drowning.
“As if stones were not enough, they started firing pellets into the water after that,” said Adil, who was also hit by a stone on his forehead during protests that took place on Friday.
Doctors attending Irfan said that the pellets which hit his eye were fired from close range. Due to the impact, the left eye has been damaged badly and chances of the boy regaining vision are almost zero.
“There is serious retinal and corneal damage in his left eye because of perforation caused by pellets. He is at the risk of losing his vision permanently,” one of the doctors at the hospital said.
“The patient needs to undergo more and more surgical procedures for almost a year. If he regains vision, he will regain it in a span of one year. If not, then probably he will never be able to see again,” the doctor said.
Mehbooba, who was also hit by a teargas shell in her foot while offering Eid prayers in July at Eidgah Srinagar, said that she like all Kashmiris was living in “Kufristan”, where people are targeted for even offering Eid prayers.
“I only want one thing… Azadi. Azadi at any cost. Nothing less than that,” she said in raised voice, gaining attention of nearby people who assembled to hear her.
Mehbooba said that she even hates her name because it is the same as that of Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
“I now urge my family members to call me by some other name. I hate this name. She (Mehbooba Mufti) has rendered hundreds of youth blind.” Mehbooba said that her family calls her by her nickname “Rani” these days.