Kashmir: 'She pelted no stones, but the pellets got her too'

Mushtaq Ahmad, father of 14-year-old Insha, who was hit by pellets in Shopian, has been by his daughter's side in the capital for a month, but she might never be able to see again

Shibu Kumar Tripathi Delhi

Insha, a 14-year-old girl from Sedew village in Shopian district of south Kashmir, is facing the most difficult battle of her life at the All Indian Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS): she is fighting to get her vision back. The Class IX student was injured in the ongoing Kashmir clashes when she was hit by pellets fired by security personnel. Insha has been undergoing treatment for the last one month at the Jayaprakash Narayan Apex Trauma Centre of AIIMS. Her parents have been by her side during the ordeal.

Speaking to Hardnews, her father, Mushtaq Ahmed, stated grimly: “Doctors have performed plastic surgery on her forehead, but they are yet to say anything about the damage to the eye.” In a life that has been nothing if not harsh, this is the harshest reality he has had to face yet. “She thought that the commotion outside had ended and opened the windows to see what was happening when she was hit by pellets. The pellet guns were fired by the police to control the stone-pelting mob. My daughter had no role in the ongoing crisis in the state, yet she has ended up in this condition. We had lost all hope after doctors in Srinagar gave up on her.” 

 

The surgeons at AIIMS are not very hopeful. “Both her eyes were damaged, as she was hit in the frontal lobe,” they said. Although she will be discharged soon, her eyesight is beyond repair. 

Pellet guns have proved calamitous in the ongoing Kashmir crisis. Medical experts have opined that pellets tend to destroy everything in their way. The energy released by a pellet when it hits an object is immense, and when it comes in contact with the eyes, it completely ruptures the lens, iris, and retina, causing total blindness. Sources in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) said that 2016 has seen the maximum number of pellets ever fired in the Valley, with over a million in the past 50 days. Pellet guns were introduced as a non-lethal replacement for actual bullets so that mobs, crowds, and uncontrollable gatherings could be dispersed and normalcy could be restored in tense areas. 

Many victims with injuries similar to Insha’s have been admitted in AIIMS over the past month to undergo a series of eye surgeries. More than 8,000 have been injured in the regular clashes between the stone-pelters and the security forces. Of those, more than 500 have sustained irreparable damage to their eyes. 

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reached out to the victims of the pellet guns and met with Insha and her family at the Trauma Centre. The CM assured Insha’s parents that she would be given the best treatment available and that the government would take care of all the expenses. Mushtaq informed Hardnews that Mufti had even offered to send Insha to the USA for treatment if necessary. 

The family is oblivious to the ongoing tension in the Valley and the desperate efforts by the government, both at the Centre and in the state, to reinstate peace. Mushtaq said, “We have been here with our daughter for one month. I have no idea about the situation back home, how my younger son is doing or how my village is weathering this tumultuous time.” 

Mufti met with the Prime Minister in the capital to discuss ways to restore order to the Valley. Following the meeting, she said, “It bothers me that children in the Valley were told that they could solve the issues by pelting stones at the police stations and army camps.” By the end of the 50th day of the curfew in the state, more than 60 civilians had lost their lives in regular clashes with the security forces. Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently returned from a two-day visit to the Valley, where he chaired high-level meetings with the Chief Minister as well as the Leader of the Opposition Omar Abdullah. 

The Home Minister said, after his first visit to the state following the unrest: “In 2010 it was said that the pellet guns are non-lethal and would cause the least damage but now we feel there should be some alternative.” The government has now identified a replacement as a seven-member team comprising officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Border Security Force, CRPF, Jammu & Kashmir Police, and IIT Delhi have approved the use of chilli-filled PAVA shells which temporarily disable the target as an alternative to pellet guns. However, pellets guns will continue to be used in the rarest of rare cases. 

Kashmir has been boiling following the encounter killing of the local Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Millitant Commander, Burhan Wani, on July 8. Wani was hailed as the poster boy for the Hizb in the Valley and was a top recruiter, with a huge following amongst the youth.