A youth has lost his eyesight partially while over a dozen others have sustained injuries in a week in south Kashmir’s Kaimoh tehsil with ‘indiscriminate’ use of pellet guns, officials and witnesses said, raising a question mark over the ruling Peoples Democratic Party’s repeated assertion that it was against use of such weapons on demonstrators. Kaimoh area in South Kashmir saw massive clashes and protests recently against arrest of youths, particularly in nocturnal raids, there.
“We received nine cases last week (on Friday). Among them, two were seriously injured and referred to District Hospital Kulgam for advanced treatment,” said Block Medical Officer Kaimoh, Dr Shakeel Majeed.
He said among the two youth referred to DH Kulgam, one had an eye injury while the other had “multiple body injuries.”
On Monday, a doctor said, the SDH again received five pellet injury cases and two of them were shifted to District Hospital Kulgam for further treatment.
“They had multiple injuries all over their body,” the doctor said. “On Tuesday, we again received 12 cases of pellet injuries. One among them was shifted to District Hospital Anantnag given the nature of the injuries.”
Sources in Anantnag district hospital said the youth had “critical” pellet injury and was shifted to SMHS hospital in Srinagar for advanced treatment.
A doctor in SMHS hospital said the youth has “lost vision in one eye.”
“The youth had a perforating eye injury, inflicting severe trauma to his eye ball and the visual prognosis seemed to be very bad,” said Dr Sajad Khanday, Senior Consultant, Ophthalmology at SMHS hospital.
He said the chances that the youth’s vision in the affected eye will recover are “bleak.”
“The pellets had pierced through his left eye and the injury was penetrating,” said Dr Khanday.
The injured youth, identified as Muhammad Asif of Hawoora Khudwani (aged 18) is doing graduation in science.
According to the youth’s family, he was not part of the protests.
“He had gone to Anantnag (Islamabad) town on Tuesday to bring some medicine and was caught in the clashes between protesters and forces,” said Asif’s cousin.
He said the forces fired multiple pellets at him “directly.”
Asif, according to villagers, is eldest among six siblings. His father is a farmer.
“The family is living in abject poverty,” they said.
15-year Navid—a class 10 student from Redwani village in Kaimoh—has also suffered multiple pellet injuries all over his body. Naved, who is recuperating at DH Anantnag, had multiple bruises all over his body.
“On Friday I was riding a motorcycle and going to deliver lunch to my grandfather who is admitted in District Hospital Anantnag when the forces fired pellets towards me,” he said.
Another 10th class student—Danish Ahmad Parray son of Abdul Rehman of Gufbal, Kaimoh—was also hit by multiple pellets all over his body on Monday and is recuperating in the hospital.
“Manzoor Ahmad, a youth from Khudwani, is also recuperating after being hit by pellets in his eye,” a doctor at DH Anantnag said.
Many youth, who have sustained pellet injuries, refused to divulge their identities before this reporter “for fear of police reprisals.”
A youth from Arampora, who was rushed by locals to District Hospital Anantnag, has received grievous injuries all over his face and body due to pellets, doctors said.
“The forces make use of pellet guns and pepper gas frequently in our area to quell pro-freedom and anti-India demonstrations,” said residents of Khudwani.
“Many youth who sustain pellet injuries usually don’t turn up for treatment as they are hounded by security agencies later,” said a doctor in SMHS hospital. “Even if they turn up in OPDs, they apprehend that policemen in civvies will follow them.”
Inspector General of Police Kashmir, Syed Javid Mujtaba Gillani said he wasn’t aware of use of pellets in Khudwani.
“It is true that the area has been witnessing lot of violence of late but I don’t think so many people will have pellets injuries. But still I will look into it,” he told.
Senior Peoples Democratic Party leader and Minister for Education, Naeem Akhtar said: “We have made it clear to police to avoid use of pellet guns while dealing with protesters.”
He said he will again take up the issue with senior police officials.
Superintendent of Police, Kulgam, Mumtaz Ahmad however said, “The use of pellets becomes necessary when youth resort to violence.”
He claimed that “we are lately witnessing certain miscreants in Kaimoh-Khudwani resorting to stone pelting, blocking busy Kulgam-Kaimoh-Anantnag road and damaging government property.”
Pertinently, massive protests have been rocking Kaimoh area for the past few days against “harassment and arrest” of youth by cops of Special Operations Group.
‘PELLETS BANNED IN SRINAGAR’
According to police sources, use of pellet guns have been “strictly banned in Srinagar on directions of IGP Kashmir” while “similar instructions are being passed to police officers in other districts as well.”