“Non-Lethal” Deaths

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After consuming at least seven lives since 2010, the debate around the lethality or non lethality of teargas shells is still not settled. Saima Bhat reports the five casualties caused by tear-gas shelling

Slain Fateh Kadal youth Irfan Ahmad Wani.

Slain Fateh Kadal youth Irfan Ahmad Wani.

In 2010, despite killing of two teenagers, Tufail Mattoo and Wamiq Farooq during 2010 summer uprising by teargas shells, the central and the state governments has classified teargas shells under the ‘non lethal weaponry’.

Six years later, Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat, 18, a resident of Charsoo village in Awantipora, became first officially recorded causality of teargas shell in 2016. According to police Bhat succumbed to his injuries after he was hit by a teargas shell on his head on July 23. However, Bhat’s family alleges that he was killed by pellets, shot from close range by forces. “He was killed after forces attacked a post-Friday prayers rally in Charsoo,” said Bashir Ahmad Bhat, his father.  The second causality was reported from Srinagar’s Fateh Kadal area when 17-year-old Irfan Ahmad, died after he was by a teargas shell on

The second causality was reported from Srinagar’s Fateh Kadal area when 17-year-old Irfan Ahmad, died after he was by a teargas shell on chest on August 22.

A lone son of his father Ahmad was rushed to the hospital where he was declared brought dead. “He was hit from a close range and the impact of the shell might have punctured his heart,” said a doctor wishing anonymity. Ahmad, an auto-driver by profession, was lone bread earner for his family. He would manage expenses of his two sisters, a handicapped brother and a widowed mother. According to eyewitnesses Ahmad was shot near Malarata area in downtown Srinagar when he had gone to attend his relative’s marriage. However, police said Ahmad was shot during clashes between government forces and protestors.

Slain Basit Mukhtar Hafiz; a youth killed by forces in the 2016 Summer uprising.

Basit Mukhtar Hafiz.

On September 10, CM Ms Mehbooba Mufti told reporters in Jammu that she is “slightly upset” after learning about death of Sayar Ahmad Sheikh, a Class 9 student, who was killed after hit by a teargas shell on head.  A resident of Ganapora in Shopian Sheikh succumbed to his injuries on way to hospital in Rajpora, Pulwama.

Ms Mufti was inaugurating a scooty scheme for girls in Jammu region when Sheikh was killed. “I don’t know what to say, I am slightly upset because as I was leaving for this place, my secretary told me that in Shopian yet again a boy, who was pelting stones, has died, so I am slightly upset today,” Ms Mufti told reporters outside the venue.

According to eyewitnesses, Sheikh was hit by a teargas shell when government forces tried to stop a pro-freedom rally in Tukroo village of Shopian district. “A large contingent of police and CRPF men used pellets and tear gas shells to foil the rally,” said an eyewitness. “This resulted in intense clashes.”

On September 13, when Muslims across the world were busy celebrating Eid-ul-Adha, Kashmir was put under strict curfew to foil a scheduled march towards UNO office in Sonwar, Srinagar.

At most of the places government didn’t allow people to assemble for mandatory Eid prayers, something that has never happened before in Kashmir’s troubled history.

The clampdown resulted in people defying restrictions at various places, leading to clashes between forces and protestors.

The day ended with two civilian casualties: one each in Shopian and Bandipora districts. One among them, Mustafa Mir, 18, who lived in Dachigam village of Bandipora district, was died after hit by a teargas shell. Mir was on his way to Eidgah when forces used teargas shells to stop people from marching ahead. He died on the spot. “He (Mir) suffered a head injury after being hit by a teargas shell,” said Dr Pervez, who was on duty at Bandipora hospital that day.

Sayar Ahmad Sheikh.

Sayar Ahmad Sheikh.

Two days later, Basit Mukhtar Bhat, 13, a resident of Dalipora village in Pulwama, succumbed to his injured after struggling for life at SMHS hospital in Srinagar for ten days.

He was brought here after a teargas shell hit him on his head on September 5, 2016. Bhat, a Class 7 student, was playing cricket with his friends when clashes broke between protestors and government forces at nearby Sirnoo Chowk, Pulwama. “Bhat and his friends ran for safety when they learnt about clashes,” said an eyewitness who wishes not to be named. “After it was calm, Bhat, out of curiosity, peeped out of his house to check if it is okay to start the game again when a shell was fired at him.”

The teargas shell hit Bhat on the left side of his head, tossing him on the ground with force. “It (teargas shell) had hit his brain,” said a relative. At SMHS hospital Srinagar doctors told his mother that Bhat is not responding. “They told me he is ‘brain dead’,” said Haleema, his mother.  “He was put on a ventilator for ten days.”

On September 15, Bhat breathed his last, thus becoming another number in the long list of casualties in 2016.

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