Tahir Bhat meets a freelance reporter in north Kashmir who lost his hope, health and eyes to a pellet shower
At the peak of 2016 unrest on August 5, police and paramilitaries besieged Kralgund to restrict protesting population to their homes. Earlier in the day, a protest had resulted in injuries to various youth when bullets flew towards them.
Javid Ahmed, 30, lives in this village. Basically a publishing designer working for some newspapers, he was also running Kashmir News Network, an Urdu news gathering service from Langate.
The silence in his village and curiosity of the reporter led him to come out. He wanted to visit the local hospital to see the injured. As he reached the hospital in the evening, all the injured had been shifted to other hospitals. So he started for home.
“As I stepped out, I saw a police gypsy coming,” Javid said. “The government officials, the police and almost everybody knew me, so I was not worried. They knew me well as I would often contact for my reporting.”
Javid said as the gypsy came closer, it looked scary. “But I decided not to run away,” he said. “Even if they arrest me, I thought, they will take me to police station.”
“I looked at the gypsy and suddenly a cop, from the top of the vehicle, fired a volley of pellets at me directly, near my residence,” Mir said. “Initially, I thought it was a bullet but a few moments later, I fell on ground and felt a burning sensation.”
Mir woke up in an ambulance and found his body covered by pellets. He was already a blind man. Locals had gathered and driven the unconscious man to the hospital.
Their destination was the local hospital but when they reached there, Mir said the paramilitary men were on rampage beating paramedics. Fearing more crises, Javid was driven to a friend’s home for the night halt. With 100 pellets on his body, he was left without any medical help.
Next day was a new drill. First they reached Baramulla wherefrom they were shifted SMHS hospital in Srinagar. His first stint in hospital was of 27 days. Both his eyes were damaged but the left eye had more severe problem.
Hoping against the hope that his vision would restore, but it went from bad to worse. “Dr S Natarajan helped me a lot in gaining vision in the right eye. He used to give me assurances that everything will be fine, otherwise, I had lost hope that I would ever see again,” Javid added.
After first surgery, doctors sent the sample to outside for analysis. Waiting for the results in hospital, he caught a respiratory infection. “Two litres of fluid were extracted from my lungs as pellets had pierced deep into my chest and that caused infection,” Javid said. “Pellets were everywhere, on my hands, head, eyes, face, legs, and chest. I couldn’t move and the pain was excruciating.” He has a pellet resting in his nasal cavity due to which he writhes in pain, suffers high fever frequently.
“I have regained partial vision in my right eye but left eye is totally blind. There are still two pellets in my left eye, one is 6mm and one is 5mm,” Javid said. “I can see with my right eye but I feel eye stain quickly and cannot concentrate on object, or stay in sunlight for long time.”
Javid is eldest of the siblings. His farmer father has spent on his treatment whatever his family could afford. He lives a half-dark life, literally. “I am changed forever, earlier I would earn and now I am dependent on my family,” Javid said. With almost three lakh rupees spent already, his monthly requirements for medicine are Rs 15,000.
Javid attempted to teach in a private school but the modest honorarium of Rs 3000 was too small to manage even part of his monthly requirements. He approached State Human Rights Commission and some journalistic bodies for help but he got assurances only. Even the government had announced financial relief. “Some received (the relief money) but I am still waiting,” he said. “After I was handicapped, no one from media fraternity helped me either. No one offered me a job.”
“Neither Kashmir Editors Guild nor any other journalistic body helped me in getting the treatment,” a trembling Javid said. “I don’t have any money to fund my treatment and this is the reason that I sold the news agency.”
“My office was shut for a year but the rent I had to pay. It was then that I decided to dispose it off,” he said. Now, Javid has developed a psychiatric condition. “I am scared in my real life and even in my sleep,” he said. Sometimes, he cries loudly in sleep.