Kashmiri youngsters need a healing touch

In reply to an RTI application, the officials at SMHS Hospital have confirmed that 91 patients with pellet injuries were admitted in SMHS hospital from March 2010 to October 2013, including 36 cases of serious eye injuries caused by the supposedly non-lethal weapon. Out of these 36 cases of eye injuries, eighteen were admitted in 2010, five in 2011, six in 2012 and seven in 2013. Of the rest of the 91 cases, 27 were open-globe injuries and rest of the youth had closed-globe injuries, Surgeries were performed on patients with open globe injuries. 17 out of the 27 youth suffered severe injuries and have poor prognosis while 14 had retained pellets inside eyeball and were advised by the doctors at the Hospital to seek treatment outside the state. Many of these patients had very less chances of regaining eye sight while as the fate of those who were advised treatment outside is not even known. The pallet injuries can be very damaging, especially if they hit a vital organ like the eye.

Pellet injuries are known to cause damage to eyes and cause temporary or permanent blindness. They can also cause injuries to brain, neck, chest and abdomen, which can result in serious damage to these organs. Despite the severe resentment that common Kashmiris and even human rights workers have voiced against the use of pellets against civilian protestors, the authorities have not budged from their stance and have regularly used them against protestors. Their use was most noticeable in the protests that erupted in Kashmir in the summer of 2009 and 2010 when thousands of Kashmiris joined protests which lasted many months. Those protests were dealt with by an iron fist by the authorities which resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians.

It seems that the Sate thinks there is no alternative to the use of force against protests. The security apparatus in the state seems to be calling the shots, and despite a civilian Govt in place in J & K since 1996, and the levels of militancy related violated coming down to record low levels, the Sate has not changed its mindset in dealing with the changing times and circumstances. The Sate has been caught in a time warp and unleashes brutal force even to crush unarmed civilian protestors. Use of force seems to be the only option at the disposal of the State. The recent killing of a civilian protestor in Naid Khai also points towards that.

Whatever political motives one may ascribe to the protests that erupted in Kashmir during the summers from 2008-2010, one cannot deny that there is an underlying frustration of the youth, who see no opportunity and purpose in life. The Valley has seen huge economic downswing during the years of militancy and also the spate of curfews and hartals have added to the misery of common folks, especially people who have to earn on a daily basis to support their families. Also there is a large number of youth, who despite being educated do not find any meaningful livelihood opportunities in their life. This adds to the sense of deprivation, helplessness and frustration. Given these facts, it becomes more important for the Sate to see reason and deal with these youngsters in more mature and humane way than merely use violence to curb them. The use of force may suppress them for the time being, but it will not heal the festering wounds.

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