What We Saw

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Overwhelmed by the number of injured and dead arriving at the hospitals since July 9, young interns struggled to cope up with the stress and nightmares. Muhammad Raafi reports

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On July 9, 2016, a day after Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in south Kashmir’s Bamdoora village, hospitals across Kashmir got flooded with injured, most of them with fatal bullet and pellet wounds.

“As the news of protests that erupted across Kashmir reached us, we knew it is going to be another long and painful summer,” recalls Dr Ubaid, an intern at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. “I told my colleagues to brace up.”

The next day, Ubaid, received a call from his registrar asking him to immediately report to the emergency ward.

“I told my colleagues about the call. There was visible tension inside the hostel as entire city was put under strict curfew,” said Dr Ubaid.

After managing his way through half-a-dozen make-shift barricades, Dr Ubaid reached the hospital. “I can never forget the scene outside the emergency ward. It was chaos all over. After every five minutes ambulances would come and drop injured, and then head back to collect more,” said Dr Ubaid.

Another intern Dr Aqib Aslam, who was posted at general ward, was told to be present in the emergency ward. “It was an extraordinary situation. Even Externs were called in to manage the rush,” said Dr Aqib.

For interns like Ubaid and Aqib, the sight of bodies perforated by bullet and pellet, was heartbreaking. “I have never seen anything so devastating,” said Dr Aqib, who struggled to sleep that night. “I had nightmares about young boys with bloodied bodies.”

Dr Ubaid, still gets scared when he recalls the day when policemen fired teargas shells and charged inside the emergency ward. “That day emergency was closed for two hours,” said Dr Ubaid. “It was really scary given the situation outside.”

Such unprecedented of injured has literally dwarfed the brutal statistics of 2010 and 2008 uprisings. “We had heard about brutalities in 2010 and 2008. But the current crisis are far more grave and devastating,” said Dr Faheem, another intern at SMHS.

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For young interns who witnessed war-like situation at the hospital, listening to stories of brutalities from injured would often leave a lasting scar on their minds. “I would cry almost every day,” said Dr Faheem. “After all we are humans too.”

Dr Faheem recalls how once a senior doctor scolded him for crying in front of a young dying boy. “You are not supposed to show your emotions like this,” the senior doctor told Faheem.

Next time Dr Faheem rushed to the washroom and cried his heart out.

For Dr Salman Zahoor, another intern, the images of pellet and bullet ridden bodies, dying young boys, eyes blinded by pellets, elderly beaten ruthlessly, stayed with him long after his duty hours. “Often, I would sleep on empty stomach,” said Dr Salman.

Dr Salman remembers how they had to deal with young boys, with either bullet or pellet injury, who needed immediate surgery. “They used to be accompanied by friends or strangers. So it was really difficult to tell them that we are going to operate you and there is no guarantee,” said Dr Salman.

Dr Salman recalls how a pellet hit victim from Kupwara asked him: can I see again? He had pellets in both his eyes. “My silence gave him his answer,” said Dr Zahoor. “It was heartbreaking.”

After a long silence, the boy spoke again and said, “I donate my eyes to the people of Kashmir, particularly to those who can see, yet they are blind. I donate my eyes to the resistance.”

Everybody inside the room became emotion and started to cry, recalls Dr Zahoor.

Dr Zahoor Ahmad, who was posted at SMHS hospital’s overcrowded ophthalmology ward, recalls the initial days of ongoing uprising with a mix of emotions. “What I witnessed at the hospital would break anybody,” said Dr Ahmad. “After all we are part of the same society. How can we stay immune to the pain and devastation around us?”

Dr Ahamd said, at times, after his shift was over, he would carry so much of pain along that upon reaching the hostel, which is located opposite a garrison (Tatoo Ground), the young interns would shout slogans against India and its war like crimes in Kashmir. “What we saw daily at the hospital was unbearable. One day we held a protest outside the garrison. The forces came out and fired teargas shell and pellets at us,” said Dr Ahmad.

Dr Aqib recalls how forces from the garrison started harassing them that day onwards. “They wouldn’t let us visit the hospital,” alleges Dr Aqib. “Once we were told, ‘let the injured die. We won’t let you go’.”

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