Tamanna, a nine-year-old was sitting at her kitchen window when a pellet hit her eye. Kashmiri youths were protesting against the armed forces in her village Tulmula when Central Reserved Police Forces started firing at them.
“They deliberately fired at our houses,” says Shameema, her mother, while trying to feed her youngest daughter in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS).
This tertiary care hospital is flooded with injured people. People with bullet and pellet injuries started rushing in following the protests that broke in Kashmir after the popular Hizb Ul Mujahidin commander was killed in an ambush on 8 July, 2016. A total of 104 injured were admitted on 10 July, 87 were admitted the next day, and one was brought in on Monday.
We have five operation tables and all of these tables were busy round the clock. Our doctors were on leaves for Eid, but all the leaves had to be cancelled; we called in each and every resident doctor we could. This is an unprecedented situation. Pellets are more lethal than bullets. We have already seen five deaths, two with bullets and the other three lives were lost to pellets.Dr Kamvaljeet, Deputy Medical Superintendent, SMHS
SMHS is the only tertiary care hospital in Kashmir. Patients with this kind of injuries are referred to this hospital from most part of the Valley.
If someone has suffered a pellet or bullet injury in Pulwama or Shupian, one is left with very few chances of survival, if the pellet enters one’s heart or lungs or any other vital part. Most of the injuries are in the eyes and are above the navel.Dr Kamvaljeet
How Can a Democracy be So Brutal?
“Out of the total 192 injured admitted in SMHS, 99 percent have suffered multiple injuries. We have operated on 80 patients with eye injuries and 80 percent of them are going to be visually impaired for life,” said Dr Sajjad Khandey, ophthalmologist, SMHS.
Eighty percent of the injured are below 25 years of age. They are school going minors, college students, and young professionals. “Yes we are angry, we pelt stones. But you tell us, where else are stones answered with bullets and pellets? India claims to be the largest democracy, how can they be so brutal to us?” asks a young engineer sitting at the edge of a bed in the injury ward.
“India is acting exactly like Israel does. Our boys are being brutalised. These boys have lost their vision, their life is changed forever,” he continues angrily.
Media Talks About the Dead, Not the Injured
“Most of them are young boys in their 20s. If they suffer an eye injury, the entire family has to suffer. They spend their resources on the treatment but we know the limitations of medical science, even after spending every single penny they have got, they don’t get their normal vision back. They become burden for their families and the society,” says Dr Khandey.
“Only the number of deaths makes news, nobody talks about the injured But, we know the magnitude of their sufferings,” continued Dr Sajjad Khandeey.
And it is not just the injuries that make these young boys suffer; they pay a dearer cost:
When they are brought to the hospital, we doctors are not the first interface they come in contact with. Police and other security personnel in civil dress reach them before us. They gather their personal details and use these details to slap FIRs against these boys.An anonymous Doctor
“Indian media doesn’t come here to talk about this serious human rights violation, instead, they only talk about the torched BJP district office and malign the image of our heroes,” says Naved Dar, a 21-year-old accompanying his 14-year-old cousin in the hospital. His cousin has suffered multiple pellet injury.
Tear Gas Shelling Inside Hospital Premises
An enraged crowd gathered inside the hospital compound on Saturday when the injured were flowing in from all around Kashmir. There is a police station close to the hospital and the angry mob outside was pelting stones at the police. The police started shelling tear gas not only at the mob outside the hospital but also at the injured patients inside the hospital.
I was at the operation table when they targeted their shells at us. All of us were choked, our eyes started burning. How can a doctor operate in such conditions? And we have patients with serious cardiac and respiratory conditions, patients with asthma. They even attacked some ambulances. They could have used tear gas to disperse the mob outside. Ultimately, our CMO had to request the Chief Minister to intervene.Surgeon, SMHS
“They are targeting our hospitals, attacking our ambulances, shooting at our youth to kill or to cripple. It’s heinous,” says an angry doctor.
The wards in SMHS are full of bullet and pellet gun injuries. Some local NGOs have arranged food and medicine for the patients and their attendants who have been staying in the hospital for last three days.
The State has declared a medical emergency. The total number of casualties has reached 32, including one policeman. And nobody in the Valley seems to believe the situation is going to improve in coming days.