Killing The Vision

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There is not let up in number of injured received at SMHS hospital in Srinagar. Every minute is adding to the blind population of Kashmir. Shams Irfan reports

Srinagar's SMHS hospital Wednesday admitted fresh pellet-hit cases from south Kashmir's Pulwama, centreal's Kashmir's Budgam and north Kashmir Kupwara. The pellet usage is still rampant in Valley despite MHA announcing its alternative Pava guns. PHOTO BY BILAL BAHADUR

Sheraz Ahmad Ahanger, 26. helped by his friends after surgery in SMHS. (Photos: Bilal Bahadur/KL)

Sitting side-by-side on a bed inside Ward 8 of SMHS hospital Srinagar, Abdul Gani Malik, 62, and his son Sabzaar Malik, 21, nurse their respective injuries – one is hit by a tear-smoke shell and other by pellets.

Flashing a smile Sabzaar, who takes pride in his name, thanks to his namesake and Burhan’s close aide from Rathsuna village in Tral, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, asks this reporter why TV channels call all Kashmiris ugarvayadis (terrorists)?

“Can’t you tell them that we are ordinary people fighting an unjust occupation,” he asks innocently.

A resident of Wokey village in Kulgam district, Sabzaar, who was hit by pellets in his right eye, arms, chest and neck, considers himself lucky!

“He (CRPF man) aimed at my face. If I had not closed the gate on time, it might have hit me straight on face,” he says with a never fading smile.

Sabzaar was shot by pellets when he tried to step outside his house on August 30. “I was out to offer evening (Asar) prayers,” said Sabzaar, a Class 10 student, who works in his free time to support his labourer father.

Apparently, CRPF men were pissed because they couldn’t stop a pro-freedom rally in nearby Taingbal village earlier that day, feels Sabzaar.

“Besides, when I look around, I feel lucky. Look at them, how young they are, and how ruthlessly they have been shot,” he says pointing towards a young pellet victim from Murran village in Pulwama, whose both eyes are covered with bandage. “At least my one eye is functional,” he adds with a smile.

Sitting next to Sabzaar is his aged father Abdul Gani Malik, 62. He was hit by a tear-smoke shell in his right leg on August 28, when he was caught between stone-pelters and government forces.

“I too was on my way to offer prayers,” said Malik, who now limps around the ward to make sure that his son is taken care of properly. “I managed to get my wound dressed just six days back when I came to SMHS. Till then I had put a cloth around it,” said Malik.

Malik still frets at the scene when a pack of CRPF, STF and JKP personnels charged towards him when he collapsed after he was hit by a shell. “I thought they will now come and shoot me like they have been doing with kids,” said Malik. “But maybe my old age saved me.”

Malik has spent last six nights sleeping near his son’s feet on the same bed. “This is our fate till we are free,” said Malik in a melancholic tone before limping towards two volunteers who came inside the ward pushing a trolley carrying tea for the injured.

Sabzaar, who was listening keenly while his father narrated his ordeal, said after a deep sigh, “I am not afraid of death. Nobody is. But what pains is that they don’t spare even elderly and children.”

He then pointed towards a young handsome boy, who had a small white patch on his right eye, hidden partially by an oversized dark glasses. “I saw him getting operated. I heard his cries while waiting outside the theatre for my turn,” said Sabzaar. “I can never forget his cries.”

Nasir Ahmad Allaie, 16, wants to represent free Kashmir's Volleyball team.

Nasir Ahmad Allaie, 16, wants to represent free Kashmir’s Volleyball team.

Lying restlessly next to Sabzaar is Nasir Ahmad Allaie, 16, a Class 10 student from a village in Kulgam district. Nasir was part of a peaceful protest march that was intercepted by government forces near Khodwani-Wanpoo bypass on August 31. “There were around five thousand people in that procession,” recalls Nasir, who was at the front.

As they reached near the heavy posse of CRPF, STF and JKP, some elders, who were with the protestors, moved forward and asked the officer in-charge to let them pass. “They allowed us to move ahead, given we remain peaceful,” said Nasir.

But once Nasir and some hundred others crossed the barricade, they (forces) began charging towards them. “They then fired bullets in the air, fired tear-smoke shells, and pellets at us,” said Nasir.

Nasir was hit by pellets in his back, arms and left eye. He instantly fell on the hot tarmac. After few second when Nasir regained his conscious, he collected himself and began running towards sub-district hospital Kohimoh, some 3 kms from the spot. “I ran half the distance on foot. Then a guy on bike gave me lift up to the hospital,” recalls Nasir.

A volleyball enthusiast, Nasir was first referred to Islamabad hospital. From there he was sent to SMHS Srinagar for an emergency eye surgery. “I still have two pellets in my left eye,” said Nasir. “They have already performed two surgeries so far. But doctors are not saying anything. I have already spent over a week here.”

Second among four siblings, Nasir wants to play volleyball at the international level, but only if he gets a chance to represent “Free Kashmir’s team”.

“I will never play for Hindustan (India),” said Nasir bluntly.

As this reporter was about to leave, Nasir called him and said, “Even if they fire tanks, we will not stop protesting till they leave our land.”

The pellet usage is still rampant in Valley despite MHA announcing its alternative Pava guns.

The pellet usage is still rampant in Valley despite MHA announcing its alternative Pava guns.

The scene inside Ward 9 turned emotional when Sheraz Ahmad Ahanger, 26, spoke to his mother in Murran (Pulwama) telling her, “I am hit by pellets. But you don’t worry, I am alright.”

Then, unable to hold his emotions for long, he let out a loud cry and said, “I wish it was bullet. It hurts…It hurts badly, mother.”

Everybody around him – small crowd of friends, well wishers, local journalists and photographers, other pellet victims – began crying.

A friends, who was sitting at the corner of his bed, quickly snatched phone from his hand and assured his wailing mother, “he is alright, just a bit frightened”.

But everybody around could see that Ahanger was not frightened but in pain, and why not, he has more than hundred pellets in his body.

Then to everybody’s surprise, Ahanger, who had half of his face covered with fresh bandage, circling over his pellet hit right eye, stood up on his bed and took off his trouser, then his shirt. “See how they treat us,” he shouted. “See what a Kashmiri gets from India.”

Ahanger was among seven pellet hit victims from Murran area of Pulwama brought to SMHS on Wednesday afternoon. Since July 9, 2016, so far 76 people were killed in forces action which left over 10,000 injured, most of them with serious pellet injures. There are around six deaths reported so far because of the pellet guns.

In the same ward, a youngster from Tral was glued to his phone, looking blankly towards the white ceiling with his right eye, while his left one remains covered in bandage. He was listening to a lyrical composition telling Pakistan not to forget Kashmiris.

As I left the words: shayad humko bhool gayi ha arze Pakistan…followed me out.

Outside ambulances were still arriving at the SMHS hospital, mostly carrying pellet hit injured from south and north Kashmir.

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