As Kashmir was pushed into post-Burhan crisis, there are families having more than one member injured. Shams Irfan meets one young man greying fast while shuttling between SMHS and SKIMS to manage his two injured brothers
In overcrowded Surgical Observation Ward of SKIMS (Soura) Srinagar, Tariq Ahmad Bhat’s blood stained off-white shirt, his sleepless eyes, unkempt hair, over grown beard, and wrinkled face, tells a story without saying one.
“I have grown old in last three weeks,” said Tariq, 35, trying hard to smile at his fate, as he watches his youngest brother Abid, 16, lay motionless on one of the beds. “He may not walk again,” said Tariq. “He has blood (clot) in his brain.”
Abid, a tenth standard student, was part of peaceful protests, when CRPF personnel stationed outside his village at Panzgham railway station, fired pellets at him from a close range, targeting his head. “He has over forty pellets in his head,” said a doctor attending him. “Some of them (pellets) have got stuck deep into his brain.”
Since July 29, Abid, who lives in Kolpura village in south Kashmir’s Sangam belt, has not spoken a word; he has barely moved a limb either. “We just shouted a few slogans in favour of Kashmir’s independence,” said Abid’s friend who sits by his side. “And they (CRPF) fired pellets at us.”
Abid, was first carried to local dispensary by his friends; then taken to Islamabad hospital, where an emergency surgery was performed to remove pellets from his head. “None of us had any idea about Abid’s condition. We thought he is still out with his friends,” said Tariq.
When his condition worsened, Abid, along with ten other pellet victims from his area, was driven to SKIMS in Srinagar, in an overcrowded ambulance. “There was nobody from the family with him till he reached SKIMS.”
At 10 pm, Tariq, who is the eldest of five brother, and supports his family by working as construction labourer, was about to retire for the night when Abid’s friend called.
“Abid is hit by pellets. Come quickly to SKIMS,” said the caller in hurry.
The call hit Tariq like electric shock. He couldn’t believe this is happening again. He was yet to recover from the “July 10 call”.
On July 10, Tariq’s second brother Ghulam Mohiddin Bhat, 24, a driver, was returning home when CRPF men from the same Panzgham railway station camp, along with SOG personnel, cut his journey short. “They fired pellets at him from close range,” said Tariq, who spent over two weeks at SMHS hospital with him. “The blood on my shirt belongs to him. I have not changed my clothes since. In fact I didn’t get time,” said Tariq with eyes fixed on Abid, whose head and face lie hidden behind layers of bandage.
After Mohiddin was shot, he was carried to Panzgham health centre, a half-mile walk from the camp, but nobody was there, so an auto was arranged. “He was taken to nearest Bijbehara hospital,” remembers Tariq.
Mohiddin had over hundred pellets in his abdomen, neck, face and head and was quickly referred to Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. “It was a long and frightening journey,” Mohiddin told this reporter at SMHS. His ambulance was stopped at Awantipora, Pampore and Pantha Chowk. “I was in a mess. My entire body was bleeding,” said Mohiddin. “I told them I met an accident, only then I was allowed to pass.”
At SMHS hospital, doctors successfully removed over forty pellets from his body. The two weeks Tariq spent with Mohiddin at SMHS hospital were full of pain and uncertainty. “When I looked at him, I had no hope that he will survive,” said Tariq.
While other three brothers stayed with Mohiddin alternatively, Tariq remained with him till he was discharged. “I had vowed not to go home without my brother,” said Tariq.
With still more than sixty pellets in his body, Mohiddin was discharged. He was told to visit again, later. Then the doctors in the SMHS were facing two critical chellengeschallenges: managing space and the human resource to tackle the record number of casualties the hospiistal would receive on day- to- day basis. So the doctors would tackle the serious issues of the patients and send them home to make room for others.
The next few days Tariq spent nursing his brother at home, when on July 29, he got a call from SKIMS. “It was about Abid,” said Tariq, trying to run his fingers through soiled hair.
In last few years Tariq, the eldest among siblings, had tough time managing household expenses after their labourer father retired because of old age. “It is difficult to manage two injured with limited resources. But Allah is there to help, he will find a way,” said Tariq. “Right now I am concerned about Abid, I want him to walk like he used to.”
Between SMHS and SKIMS, Tariq seems to have added a decade to his appearance. “You are asking me about my appearance, I don’t even remember my home anymore,” he said sarcastically. “It seems I am destined to stay in the hospitals.”