On chilly Sunday morning, a clutch of youngsters, donning sunglasses appeared at the Press Enclave in Srinagar. They held banners which identified them as the J&K Pellet Victims Association. Attention world, we want justice, the banner read. The youngsters, their eyes pellet-hit said the Association had been formed to help bring some attention to their plight. Altaf Ahmad, one of the victims, urged people to extend their support to them. We are not here to complain but for to fight for justice, he said.
Over the five months of unrest, Srinagars leading SMHS hospital received hundreds of pellet cases. The number of people hit and the seriousness of their injuries surpasses anything witnessed in the past. As per the records available with SMHS and SKIMS Medical College, the number of the people hit in the eye by the pellets during unrest is at around 1130, most of them youth and the teenagers. Fourteen people have lost their lives after being hit by the pellets, one of them a Bank ATM guard who was shot at close range by the unidentified security ;personnel while returning home from his job.
The pellet gun, according to the doctors, has caused vision impairment to around one thousand people and injured a massive 7136 people in other parts of the body. Several hundred of them have only a perception of light. Insha Malik, one of them was completely blinded. The picture of her disfigured, pellet-riddled face has become the symbol of the ongoing turmoil
Two weeks ago, the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had announced an ex gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh in favour of the next of kin of those killed during the unrest. She said possibilities of providing jobs would also be explored in cases of extreme compassion. The Chief Minister also announced Government jobs for the persons who lost their eyesight during the unrest.
But the compensation, albeit by no means generous, will do nothing to help ameliorate the lot of the pellet-blinded. At the protest, Ahmad described the pathetic plight of the pellet victims. He said how losing sight meant they had lost everything. Now, we are dependent. We need help for everything. We cannot read and write, cannot go out or walk on road without help, he said.
The Association also demanded ban on the use of the pellet guns and bemoaned the use of the weapon exclusively in Kashmir. Coincidentally, the Association has been formed when Jallikatu protests are ongoing in Tamil Nadu. But the protesters there are being spared of the pellet guns despite being similarly involved in the arson attacks like burning of the police stations and the vehicles. This is a telling contradiction that has been even brought to light by the senior journalists like Shekhar Gupta and Harinder Baweja. The Association also made several demands which included an end to the use of pellet guns in Kashmir, end to the harassment of pellet victims, withdrawal of false cases against youth, action under law against the security personnel responsible for snatching their eye sight, and providing the victims complete assistance for complete treatment in regaining their vision. The state government if it is serious about healing some of the wounds should respond positively to these demands.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.