By Tajamul Islam, Tanvir Ajsi et al
What greater tragedy can befall a person than losing his or her eyesight? The legs that intuitively take you everywhere with the support of your eyes would require a rehabilitation centre to teach you how to walk and synchronize yourself with the dark. Losing eyesight is not an individual issue in Kashmir. It is an issue that warrants a social response.
It is not so long ago that images of pellet-sieved faces and blood-rimmed eyes floated everywhere sending shivers down our spines. Barely a year and half down the lane , we have already forgotten the people behind those images. It is important to make sure that this kind of tragedy does not happen again. But the journey towards a better tomorrow cannot be complete unless we also ensure that every single one of those who were injured like that are cared for.
There is a discrepancy between the official figures and the data provided by the hospitals. Those who have been hit by pellets range from over 1700 to around 8000 according to the available data. Some sources claim that about 700 civilians have sustained eye injuries and many have lost eyesight completely.
But, we must go beyond the numbers game and merely dwelling on these. The question that we must ask ourselves is: What have we, as a society, done for these victims? A person who has sustained injuries in eye requires several rounds of surgeries depending upon the damage caused. It requires resources and many a family have drained their resources in the hope of restoring some amount of vision back to the eyes of their loved ones. There are families who have already given up on the treatment because of the costs involved and the victims have decided to take the support of a crutch to navigate and negotiate with this dark phase of their life.
Those who have been affected by these pellets include people from all walks of life. It is our collective responsibility to pool our resources to help those victims in need. Kashmir is a very philanthropist society, and time and again we have proved that we can do for ourselves what the government and its agencies cannot do, be it 2014 floods, the economic blockade earlier and so on. Pellet victims need several rounds of operations to make them able to restore some light, however blurry it is, to see a skein of hope in their future.
The need of the hour is to introspect and pool our resources, intellectual, economic and financial, to come to the aid of these victims.
We request all the people of Kashmir to talk to their local representatives and community leaders for devising a plan and find about the victims in the surrounding areas and localities who need help. There needs to be a collective and sustained effort from mohalla to village and town level for helping the pellet victims and the other maimed and injured persons.
We cannot and must not push these victims to the back of our minds.