Insha Latief / Nazima Sidiq
Rohmoo(Pulwama): When the children of her neighbourhood return from school, 15-year-old Ifra Jan hurries to leave the lawns of her home where she has been basking under the open sky – her doctors have told her she needs to get a good dose of Vitamin D as she suffers from pains in her back, legs and arms. A Class VIII student until last year, Ifra is one among the hundreds of victims rendered completely or partially blind in the pellet-firing government forces resorted to crush the anti-India uprising set off by the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani last July. On 31 October 2016, Ifra was studying at her home in Mulwai Mohalla in Pulwama’s Rahmoo village when she heard loud sounds outside. Worried about her younger brother who had gone out, she rushed outdoors to check on him. The moment she opened the door, a hail of pellets hit her; she sustained injuries in her face, eyes, neck, chest and arms. “Locals took me to Pulwama Hospital. My eyes were covered with bandages, and I was referred to SMHS Hospital in Srinagar,” Ifra recounted.
At the hospital, doctors found two pellets lodged in her left eye and three in her right, leaving her almost blind. Her eyes have been operated on four times since last year, which has drained her family financially. Her left eye is completely damaged, but the right one still has partial vision. She cannot recognise anyone or read or watch television without glasses.
“The incident made her physically as well as mentally weak,” Ifra’s grandfather, Abdul Aziz Dar, told Kashmir Reader.
More than her eyesight, she is traumatised when her siblings leave for school each morning. That is when each day she locks herself in a room. Ifra doesn’t remember the last time she touched her books or where she kept her school bag. “I wanted to study to become a doctor but now I can’t concentrate on my studies. I am advised by my doctors to avoid straining my eyes. I get easily irritated and shout at my mother,” Ifra told Kashmir Reader.
Her aunt helps her shower in the mornings as her doctors have advised her to avoid getting water near her eyes. “My mother can’t bear to see me like this. Only I know what I go through at that time,” she said.
Ifra’s father was killed in ‘cross-firing’ between forces and militants in 2003 in Pulwama. Her grandfather, who takes care of the family, which includes Ifra’s three siblings and her mother, says they have not received government compensation.
“The government only promised us jobs. Not a single penny was given to us for her treatment,” Aziz said.
“When I am alone, I think about how my life has changed. Even now, those memories are still vivid. I remember my face was soaked in blood after the pellets hit me, and locals cleaned it up. I often dream about these things and I wake up screaming and crying,” Ifra said, tears welling up.
Ifra is well aware of the struggle that lies ahead for her. For that, she expects the government to provide her a job so she does not remain dependent on her family.