Self Help: Pellet Victims Set Up Their Own Welfare Trust

by Aarif Shah and Fazil Buchh

SRINAGAR: Scores of pellet injured of Kashmir Monday assembled in Srinagar’s press enclave to highlight their plight. The gathering was aimed primarily at making a formal announcement that they have set up their own grouping for self-help and people desirous of helping them must contact them directly.

Kashmiri pellet Injured girl carry a banner during a protest on Monday, February 19, 2018, to seek the intervention of the society to end their plight.KL Image by Mukhtar Zahoor

They carried banners seeking the attention of passer byes and reporters. Some of the banners were aimed at global community asking for intervention to stop human rights violations.

The victims spoke to the press. The tone was filled with lament towards the government as well as larger society.  They said most of the victims belong to poor families and live in miserable conditions. “The society has helped but much more needs to be done,” said one victim.

“Many NGO’s collect donations for our cause but in the end, no proper help is provided as many victims are left out due to lack of streamlining of donations,” Mohammad Ashraf Wani, who spoke for the group, said. He said many victims are living in misery and have nothing to cook for meals. Many have even abandoned treatment of eyes due to financial instability.

Kashmiri pellet Injured on Monday, February 19, 2018, staged a protest in Srinagar to seek the intervention of the society to end their plight.KL Image by Mukhtar Zahoor

Though the Trust existed for some time, Wani said, it could not do much because of the inexperience of the members their age and the paucity of time. He said most of the affected youth impacted by the pellets are the members of the Trust. There were many females in the gathering that spoke to the media.

“It might be shocking to you but the fact is that sisters of some of us have sold their jewelry to spend on our treatment,” Wani said. “Pellets are a problem that drains families because they have to move for treatment.”

To tackle the issue and streamline the donation the victims have formed an association on their own by the name of Jammu and Kashmir Pellet Victims Welfare Trust. “We sincerely appeal the people of Kashmir to support the trust,” said Mohammad Ashraf Wani, a pellet victim who was a vocal member in the group.

They claimed they have 3300 pellet victims associated with the trust, among which 1250 have eye injuries.

During the mass protests of 2016, government forces fired metal pellets into crowds of protestors which triggered massive crises. Hundreds of the young were shot in the face with the pellet guns rendering them partially or fully blind. The use of pellet guns still continues to suppress protests despite being criticised by human rights groups globally.

The government started a rehabilitation and compensation policy for pellet victims some months back. Under the policy, a handful of victims have been helped so far. Among the notable ones who have been helped include Insha Mushtaq, a girl who was blinded by pellets in 2016 and became a face of the Kashmir’s pellet victims globally. The Chief Minster Mehbooba Mufti said in the state assembly that the government has sanctioned a gas agency for Insha.

Only 13 victims from the association have been given government jobs while 18 have received meager compensation, said Ashraf, the rest of the victims have not taken any compensation from the government.

“We have no other option but to seek public help,” said another victim. “We have many brothers and sisters among us who have been completely blinded by pellets. There are people who were sole bread earners for their families but due to serious injuries, their socio-economic conditions have worsened.”

They said the Trust aims at the welfare of victims.  Expressing gratitude to the people of Kashmir Ulfat, a pellet victim, appealed the public to donate generously. They also shared the contact number of the Trust which is 9622688779.

Brothers in dark

In the just-concluded assembly session, the government informed the house that 9042 persons were injured in the Kashmir valley from July 2016 to February 2017. These included 368 bullet injuries, 6221 pellet injuries, 4 persons were injured with PAVA shells, 2449 persons other injuries, 51 persons were killed till date.

“15 persons were permanently disabled and 39 persons were partially disabled,” the government response said. Interestingly, the government data revealed that in Pulwama 1571 persons were injured in district.

Earlier, the Minister for Revenue, Abdul Rehman Veeri, said that 13 pellet victims were appointed by the government in various departments on extreme compassionate grounds. Besides, 22 pellet victims were provided financial assistance out of Chief Minister’s Relief Fund.

Pellet Debts

Veeri further informed that a Committee was constituted under the chairmanship of Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir to identify such persons who were permanently or partially disabled during law and order disturbances in the Kashmir Valley from July 8, 2016, to November 2, 2016. “In the first phase, the Committee recommended 54 cases for grant of ex-gratia that has been sanctioned by the government while as 10 more cases which were recommended in the second phase are under examination,” he said.

(Zafar Aafaq edited this story)


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