Images of a Palhalan boy’s face dotted with pellets haunted Kashmir’s conscience for days. But he was not the only one injured that day. Durdana Bhat visits Kashmir’s most talked about village and meets ‘others’ struggling to get out of darkness, off the media glare
It has been more than one week since Imtiyaz Rasool Tantry, 16, a class 10th student from Palhalan was admitted in Srinagar’s SKIMS hospital with pellet injuries. But for this boy, the events of last week are imprinted on his mind like the marks of hundreds of pellets on his right arm. He is writhing in pain. It is visible on his face every time he tries to riffle his right arm. After every two hours doctors come and inject him with a pain killer. They (doctors) seem as confused as the young boy. “It eases the pain for the time being. But it is not helping,” says Imtiyaz.
But as Imtiyaz sees this reporter walking towards him, he puts on a brave face and starts recalling the events of May 21, the day that is otherwise drenched in blood.
Back home in Palhalan, sitting outside her modest brick and wood dwelling, Imtiyaz’s mother is clutching a small purse in her hand in which she has kept money donated by her well wishers and neighbours for her son’s treatment.
Imtiyaz’s father Ghulam Rasool said, “Imtiyaz had gone to school to appear in exam but when he didn’t return, we started to look for him. Later we came to know that he was hit by pellets and fainted on the spot. We rushed him to the hospital in Srinagar.”
“After my eyesight was weakened due to carpet weaving, I started working as a construction labourer. I don’t earn much. If he will not be treated with proper medication, he will lose his arm,” says Imtiyaz’s father.
On the same day, Hamid Ahmad Bhat, 16, a class 10th student like Imtiyaz, was out to check if his tuition centre is open or not. He was caught in the protests and a high-velocity pellet hit him in the right eye causing vitreous haemorrhage. Around 100 pellets have hit him in the face and skull as well.
His mother Rafiqa said, “Three days before, I went to Srinagar to see him but I can’t withstand what he is going through. Tell me for what crime he was punished?”
The incident took place on the day when Kashmir was commemorating the Hawal Massacre, besides the twin death anniversaries of Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone.
“I am not satisfied with the ongoing treatment of my son. If I have to, I will sell my land to raise money for his treatment, he still have two live pellets inside his right eye and he is on the verge of losing his sight,” Hamid’s father Nazir Ahmad Bhat said.
“My son wasn’t involved in any protest, he was going for a private tuition, still he was hit and injured,” claims Nazir.
This “non-lethal” weapon was introduced to control pro-freedom protesters and stone throwers after Delhi and the state government came under severe criticism for shooting dead 128 unarmed protesters, mostly young boys, during anti-India protests in 2010.
Unlike Imtiyaz and Hamid, another youngster Tariq Ahmad Hajam, a class 7th student, was taking a stroll near the entrance of the Palhalan town gate. He was hit on the back and scalp. Though he has not suffered any deep injury, but the pellets are still inside his skin.
“I was coming back from the school when pellets hit me,” recalls Tariq. “I lost my consciousness. When I opened my eyes, I found myself at a hospital bed. My brother and father were there to see me. On the next morning I was discharged.”
Doctor had told him to take medicine and apply ointment for six days and everything will be alright. “But I can’t sleep. He says, “It has been eight days and I haven’t re-joined my school.”
Back to SKIMS, teenager Imtiyaz is still enduring a withering pain. In spite of his visible bravado in presence of this reporter, he occasionally contracts eyes to overcome the frequent bouts of pain. With pellet still in his body, it seems the pain, inflicted upon this boy, will take some time to fade out. But can life be the same again?