Sumbal: On Friday afternoon, 30-year-old Asha was immersed deep in thought. She seemed on an unending wait, seated near a door which leads to the corridor of an old, dilapidated three-storey mud house.
In her lap sat her three-month-old baby, Talib. Near them, Talib’s three-year-old sister Falak was playing in the mud.
“I had asked him to stay back at home on Thursday when this incident happened, but he insisted he had to go for the work as milk for the child (their three-month-old baby) was running low,” says Asha.
“Asha married late, in 2010, as it was difficult to get her a match, given her weak appearance. She was also very reluctant. It was after many hurdles that God blessed her, and we got her married to Abdul Rasheed Wani, 35,” says Raja, Asha’s sister, adding as she breaks into a wail, “It was all she had.”
Abdul Rashid Wani, known locally as Rash Kaka, was on his vending cart as usual on Sumbal Bridge, where he sells snacks, when student protesters from a nearby college passed by. “It was a peaceful protest; no one hurled any stones at police,” area resident Sajad said.
Asha says her husband, who is writhing in pain at SKIMS, Soura, told her about the incident over the phone. “He told me, ‘I was exchanging money from a customer when a sudden bang rattled me. I turned around and ducked, but everything seemed normal. After I turned, the cops fired at me; they struck my eyes and everything went black. I crawled to a nearby house, asking for water. After that, I lost consciousness,’” Asha related.
After that, he was immediately taken to the Jehlum Valley College Hospital, Srinagar. “He was taken to the operation theatre at once but he wasn’t operated on there,” shares Shareefa, Asha’s cousin, who lives in a nearby village, Ganastan. “After hearing this news, I immediately ran to the hospital, where doctors gave him some first aid and referred him to SKIMS, Soura.
“At SKIMS, the doctors have declared that he has lost his right eye due to pellet injuries. The doctors are telling us that they are trying hard to protect his other eye, which is also partially damaged. Besides that, he also has pellets in the brain,” his family members shared.
“The damage caused by the pellets to his brain will be known only after conducting a CT scan on his head,” said Ghulam Nabi, Asha’s brother, who is attending to Rasheed at SKIMS.
He added that “the CT scan is not possible today due to some strike in the hospital”.
Rasheed’s other relatives shared that he is “not talking sense, he has lost speech consistency, he can’t control his urine. It raises an apprehension that his brain has received some internal injury too, due to pellets.”
The couple is so poor that its share in this “century-old” house at Waheed Mohalla in main town Sumbal is just one room, which serves as both living room and kitchen. The rest of the house belongs to Rasheed’s three brothers and mother, who live separately in other houses. His father died several years ago due to old age.
According to one of Rasheed’s neighbours, he worked as a labourer through most of the year and sometimes as a hawker, selling clothing. For more than a year now, he had been selling street food on a vending cart near Sumbal Bridge.
On Friday, Sumbal traders and locals protested what they called the high-handedness of the police. Shops remained closed, and traffic stayed off the roads.
A humble move within the area to help Rasheeds family in treating him collected around Rs 15,000 on Friday.
The traders’ body in Sumbal has also demanded that an FIR be filed against the cop who they claim intentionally targeted the students and the vendor for firing pellets at Rasheed.
“We have been assured by the SDM and Tehsildar that an FIR will be launched against the culprits,” the Traders’ Federation president, Mushtaq Ahmad Rather, said.
A police officer of the town said, though on condition of anonymity, that “there were clashes as some miscreants tried to create a situation by throwing stones at police, which compelled us to fire pellets and teargas. We immediately launched an FIR into the incident against the miscreants for throwing stones. The miscreants will be identified as the investigation is on.”