The wounds that never heal

Kashmir’s first acid attack was not on a woman, but on a man whose ruined life has seen no restoration

Pulwama: Gulzar Ahmad Mir of Ratnipora village has been living in the care of his brother’s family since the evening of May 30, 2002, when he went out for a stroll on a village street and three men came and splashed his face with acid.
The acid destroyed both his eyes and right ear and disfigured his face. Gulzar was a college student at the time he was attacked. His was the first known case of acid attack in Kashmir. He has received no support from the government or any social organisation.
Gulzar told Kashmir Reader that it took a long time before the three accused were sentenced to three years in jail and ordered to pay Rs 3 lakh each to the victim. “The judgement also directed the district legal services authority to pay Rs 3 lakh as victim compensation but the case was later stayed and no compensation came either from the government or from any NGO,” he says.
Gulzar narrated that after he was attacked, the culprits fled from the spot and he was taken to hospital by locals. “I at first was not aware about the extent of damage to my eyes. But I heard doctors speaking to each other that ‘both of his eyes are gone’,” he recalled.
For many years Gulzar consulted doctors in Kashmir, Hyderabad, AIIMS Delhi, and other parts of India, but even after some surgeries his vision did not return.
The expenses on medicines and surgeries amounted to more than Rs 40 lakh, he says.
Gulzar has been gaining weight in recent years and suffers from frequent bouts of depression, for which he has been taking medicines continually. Oftentimes, other ailments follow, draining whatever money his brother manages to earn from his business.
“No one has ever supported me, financially or otherwise. I receive a few hundred rupees from the government for being disabled”, he said, adding that with that amount he cannot buy even his cigarettes for a month.
He has remained dependent on his elder brother for everything, with whom he lives along with his mother. He spends time with his nieces, whose faces he caressed as we spoke with him.
“When they aren’t here, it is difficult to pass time,” he said.
Gulzar couldn’t marry. “Who will give his daughter to me?” he asks. His father did try to search for a girl for him, Gulzar says, but he died before his efforts could be fruitful.
The group of men attacked him with acid simply because they saw him talking with a girl. “There was a misunderstanding. They thought I was wooing that girl, but I wasn’t,” he says, adding that “one of the attackers was in a relationship with that girl.”
“They threatened me before the attack but I didn’t take that warning seriously as I was not doing anything wrong. I was not in a relationship with the girl but used to just talk with her, just I did with other girls in the village,” he said.
“To some extent, I will be happy if I get justice,” he said of the meagre hope which is all that is left in his ruined, destroyed life.

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