SHOPIAN: A 17-year-old Shopian boy has been restricted to his bed for the past three months, after being showered with pellets in Bonbazar area of Shopian’s main town.
Sahil was injured on August 13 when government forces were returning from an encounter in Awneera, where they had killed three militants including top Hizb commander Yasin Yatoo alias Mahmood Gaznavi. The pellet attack that left Sahil sightless happened near the Bonbazar children’s park, some hundred metres from his home.
Eyewitnesses told Kashmir Reader that neither was there any provocation nor any stone-pelting, though a shutdown was being observed in the district that day. A friend of Sahil, Basit (name changed) said it was a normal day.
“We were heading home because of heavy rain. Then the firing began,” said Basit, who found Sahil lying in a pool of blood. “Because of the pellet firing, we left the place as two of our friends (Sahil and Azhar) had been injured. We left the place and took Sahil to hospital within 10 minutes of the attack.”
Sahil was famous in town for his passion for cricket. He had participated in several district and inter-district tournaments and was known for his fast bowling.
“I am badly missing the cricket ground. Cricket was my passion. I used to spend three to four hours in the ground but now I feel myself lame; I can’t even go outside my room,” Sahil said.
Rendered almost wholly helpless, after being hit by six pellets in both eyes, Sahil is now without vision and has to rely on his two sisters for assistance in virtually everything. A Class 12 student of the Government Boys’ Higher Secondary School, Shopian, with a matriculation exam score of 55 percent, he rues that he could not make it to his examinations.
“I want to appear in the exams but how can I? I was preparing for them, I had completed 70 percent of the syllabus and was looking forward to passing them and getting admission in some good college, but the forces ruined all my dreams and my family’s expectations from me,” he said.
He added that his classmates and friends often visit him to offer comfort. “When they tell me that they are leaving for their exams, it kills me inside. May Allah return my sight so that I can appear in the exams next time,” he said.
Sahil’s father, Abdul Hameed, told Kashmir Reader that he spent Rs 2.5 lakh on two surgeries and medicines to help his son regain sight. “After two surgeries, he now notices that something is in front of him but it is beyond recognition. He underwent two surgeries in 45 days, and the next one is scheduled in December. Doctors told me he will need five surgeries to regain the sight of his left eye and then they will start treatment on the right eye,” Abdul Hameed said.
The two-storey mud house where Sahil lives tells the story of the shattered family. No stranger to grief, Hameed has already lost six of his family members, including his wife, in a span of eight years. Being without land or business, he tries to fulfil his children’s basic needs by selling chickens and eggs as a vendor.
Abdul Rasheed, a neighbour, said the family needs monetary assistance as Hameed is not in a position to afford his son’s treatment. “He is hardly able to make both ends meet. Surgeries on his son’s eyes are far beyond his capacity,” he said.
“After consulting different doctors, I was suggested to take my son to Amritsar to Doctor Daljeet Singh Hospital,” Hameed said. “Despite huge financial pressure, I left no stone unturned to educate my children, but I was unaware that the forces would one day snatch sight from my son who was the ray of hope for my better future.”
Sahil spoke fervently of his innocence. “I did nothing, didn’t even dare to cross the road, but despite that they (the forces) snatched my sight. They are cruel, there was no stone pelting or provocation either there or in any part of town,” he said.
Sahil’s worry for his family only worsens the sorrow and helplessness of his situation. “My right eye is now totally blind. During the two surgeries in my left eye, doctors put some oil-like substance in my eye and told me to stay on bed in a particular position. I am fed up of this bed now. I want to see things – at least my sisters, father and friends. Who can know my pain? I have young sisters; looking after them is a burden my father will not be able to bear.”