It all started during 2016 turmoil, when Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Muzaffar Wani was killed in an encounter at Kokernag area of South Kashmir. People came out on streets in huge numbers and while forces retaliated with pellets, scores of people suffered injuries mostly in the eyes with majority of cases falling in the category of grievous injuries.
Excessive use of pellets had triggered controversies, with many questioning its unchecked use while dealing with protestors, leading government of India to introduce PAVA shells. Even the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured Parliament that the government would look into the use of these guns.
Pellet injuries were something new and shocking for the people who either witnessed such injuries or were themselves subjected to the same, however, the notion is changing drastically, and people are treating these injuries as if like any other injury.
“Initially, in 2016 and before that people were reacting with intensity to such injuries, grave or otherwise, however, now, people take it as if something normal,” said a doctor at SMHS, adding that “may be people are getting used to it day by day.”
Psychologists are also saying that due to the excessive and sustained exposure to the violence that people treat it as normal as the time is passing.
“When a person is subjected to excessive violence, or continuously witnesses the heart wrenching scenes, initially he reacts, however, later he stops reacting to such scenes,” says, a clinical psychologist, Qadri Saleem.
What Qadri said, proves to be true after meeting with those who have been witnessing the mayhem that pellets created.
Some people who earlier saw pellet victims usually reacted in a different manner however, some drowned into deep trauma and stress disorders.
“When it all started it had an impact, but now that impact has faded away,” said a medico who works at a leading government hospital in Srinagar, adding that “when onlookers used to see such a patient being taken from one place to another, they usually fainted at such scenes.”
Pellets continue to shower on the people here. Since 2016 there has been no change in the situation. The hospitals in Srinagar continue to receive cases of ‘grave’ pellet injuries.
According to reports, in 1 year, 16 persons lost their vision in both the eyes due to pellets and at least 161 suffered total blindness in one of the injured eye.
This reporter met a person, hailing from Srinagar, whose son lost his left eye when a volley of pellets hit him in 2016, “I was shattered then, I had lost my world when my son lost his eye, but now not nothing impacts me,” he said, adding that “I usually see kids being hit by pellets, it pains me, but I feel as if it is all normal and nothing new.”
Every time there is an encounter, Srinagar’s SMHS hospital receives cases with grave pellet injuries. On Friday, June 16 when encounter raged in Bijbehara area of Anantnag on Friday, at least 18 cases of eyes injuries were brought to SMHS and at around 5 cases were admitted in ward 8 with grave injuries.
Even on Saturday, July 8, that marked the 1st death anniversary of Burhan Muzaffar Wani, SMHS received a pellet injury victim from Shopian. A lady indentified as Sara, was hit by a volley of pellets, was injured in her left eye and the upper part of her chest. Doctors attending her said that there are grave injuries to her left eye, “it is almost 80 per cent gone,” they said.
The alleyways of SMHS continue to bear witness that there has been no end to the pellet plight in Kashmir and what initially evoked an intense and emotional response, now seems to be emerging as a new normal—adding up to the number of ‘blinds’ in Kashmir.