Hours after Amit Shah introduced a Bill in the Rajya Sabha to abrogate Article 370, and New Delhi announced the revocation of Article 35-A, the first clash between a group of local youths and the CRPF occurred in Noorbagh area of downtown Srinagar on 5 August. The locals carried two youngsters — Mussaib (22) and Nadeem (18) — both residents of Palpora Noorbagh — to SMHS Hospital, while alleging that the duo had ‘drowned to death’ in the Jhelum, during the CRPF action.
Doctors, upon examination, admitted Nadeem for treatment, and declared Mussaib ‘brought dead’. Post recovery, Nadeem ‘disappeared’, and nothing more was heard about him.
After a clash in the neighbouring Safakadal on 17 August, residents brought Mohammad Ayub Khan (65) of Braripora, Sekidafar, to SMHS. They alleged that the septuagenarian had become unconscious due to teargas. On examination, doctors declared him ‘brought dead’. Thereafter, Mussaib and Mohammad Ayub Khan’s mortal remains were interred in a local cemetery.
‘No Reported Deaths Due to Bullets, Pellets’
Contrary to hearsay, there have been no official reports mentioning on deaths due to bullets or pellets fired by the security forces in any part of the Valley since 5 August. Due to continued curfew, a communication blockade and sporadic clashes in Noorbagh-Safakadal belt, The Quint, despite two repeated attempts, was unable to talk to the family members of Mussaib and Khan. However, their neighbours and relatives maintained that both of them had died in CRPF action.
“Families of both the civilians have charged the CRPF with ‘murder’. But we are not in a position to confirm such allegations. We thoroughly examined them and did not find any evidence of the death having been caused by the forces’ action. Neither of them had any internal or external injuries. Immediately after we declared them as ‘brought dead’, residents took the bodies home without a post mortem,” said a senior doctor at SMHS, who spoke on condition of anonymity, on grounds of potential threat to his life.
Doctors and the paramedical staff at SMHS maintained that the Police had not taken cognisance of the allegations of the two families.
“No FIR has been filed. Even their family members didn’t turn up subsequently,” said a doctor. Officials at Karan Nagar and Safakadal Police stations confirmed that no FIR had been filed as, according to them, there was “no evidence of the death having been caused by CRPF”.
Tight-Lipped Officials Avoid Media Questioning
Even as DGP Dilbag Singh, IGP Kashmir Swayam Prakash Pani, and Senior SP Srinagar Haseeb Mughal, did not respond to phone calls, Divisional Commissioner Baseer Khan claimed that no details of any injuries or casualties were available with him. He said that only the government’s designated spokesman and Principal Secretary Rohit Kansal was authorised to speak to the media. The Director of Information Syed Sehrish Asgar gave the same response.
At his media briefings, Principal Secretary Kansal asserted that “not a single fatal casualty” had occurred anywhere in Jammu and Kashmir.
He pointed out that “all the chatter about clashes and killings” had proved to be unfounded, and not one complaint or FIR had been filed at any police station. According to him, about 50-60 persons had sustained “just minor injuries” in sporadic incidents, and none of them were in a critical state.
Doctors at SMHS Hospital, Bone & Joint Hospital, Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura, and SKIMS Medical College Bemina said invariably that none of them was authorised to speak to the media. “We are under instructions from Advisor Health Mr Vijay Kumar, and Principal Secretary Health and Medical Education Atul Dulloo Sahab, that no doctor or officer should speak to the media. We collect information, compile details and forward the same on a daily basis to the higher authorities. Only the government spokesman shares it with the media,” said a doctor on condition of anonymity.
Kansal gives only brief answers and does not share details regarding the total number of casualties, and ‘miscreants’ and political activists detained.
Director, School Education, Yunus Malik, claimed at the press briefing that the authorities had facilitated the opening of 774 middle-schools, out of 9,000 across Kashmir. But when the journalists repeatedly asked him to identify one such school where the students had turned up, he had no answers. At the same briefing, Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir, parried questions regarding the number of detentions since 5 August.
About 100 Injured Kashmiris Being Treated in Srinagar’s Hospitals
The Quint succeeded in accessing official details about the injured persons and the patients treated at different hospitals during the lockdown, on Wednesday, at the Civil Secretariat. According to the information received on a senior bureaucrat’s WhatsApp, a total of 82 persons, mostly with minor injuries, had been admitted and treated in Srinagar. This is excluding around 25 persons who have been treated at SKIMS.
Documents revealed that among the 72 injured who were treated at SMHS, 37 had pellet injuries in their eyes, and 35, in other parts of their bodies.
Five had been hit by teargas shells, and 4, by stones. As 68 had been discharged and 2 were referred to SKIMS, only 2 of the injured were still under treatment at SMHS.
Besides, 10 patients admitted at B&J have mentioned that they had been thrashed by security forces. Almost all of them have been discharged after treatment.
Many officers remain apprehensive about violence breaking out after lifting of the curfew, the release of politicians, and the restoration of Internet.
Hospital Operations In Full Swing
According to the official statistics tabulated at SMHS, Lal Ded Maternity Hospital, Bone & Joint Hospital, GB Panth Children Hospital and Chest Disease Hospital, as many as 33,464 patients have been treated at Out-Patient Departments from 5 August to 20 August. Besides 5793 patients have been admitted at these hospitals. The number of surgeries conducted is 1,174. The number of normal deliveries and Caesarean Sections (at LD) is 1,092.
In addition, 59,115 medical investigations, and 332 diagnostic procedures (MRI, CT Scan, biopsy etc.) have been performed.
“Most of these statistics match those of the normal weeks of any year. In fact the number of patients admitted at LD is 20 percent more than the normal, because many of those from rural areas declined to get discharged during the curfew period,” said a senior doctor. He said that the number of patients at GB Panth too was 30 percent more than the normal. Only the SMHS had witnessed 40 percent fall as many of the patients from the countryside had failed to travel to Srinagar.
Sufficient Supplies, ‘Normal Attendance’ Of Doctors
Doctors revealed that around 40 of their colleagues, besides 100-odd students of the Government Medical College Srinagar, which is part of SMHS, had left in panic for their residences outside the Valley, in the first three days of the curfew. However, many of the doctors and paramedical staff at SMHS have subsequently returned.
“We are not facing any dearth of medical or other supplies as we had stock reserves for 45 days when the curfew was imposed,” said an officer. He claimed that attendance of staff at SMHS was 80-90 percent during the crisis period. “This is equal to that of our normal days,” he asserted.
Doctors and paramedical staff at SKIMS told The Quint that all their colleagues and students from Jammu and other places had left in panic in the first week of August when some people in the neighbourhoods forced non-Kashmiri private workers to leave.
On two occasions, they said, SKIMS premises were ‘captured’ by angry crowds.
Police and CRPF used teargas to disperse them. “Teargas spread in our hostels and some parts of the hospital. Our life has become miserable as unruly crowds enter the hospital from three unguarded entrances,” said a female officer. “However, it’s reassuring that during the current unrest, stone-pelters have spared our fleet of buses and ambulances,” she added.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached@ahmedalifayyaz. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)