2014 Hajin Pellet Victims Still Reeling Under Darkness

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HAJIN : It was  March 14, 2014, around a dozen people were injured when government forces fired pellets to disperse thousands of angry protesters in Hajin town of north Kashmir’s Bandipora District. Three of the injured ,Farooq Ahmad Malla, Aijaz Ahmad Hurra And Ishfaq Ahmad Parrey were hit directely in the eyes according to health officials. Despite all possible treatment victims are battling for recuperation of eyesight since then.

“What Government is doing to ban the use of pellet guns? Has not Government any lesson to learn from the mistakes committed by it in the past? Why Government is continuing this lethal weapon as a crowd control method, despite it has cost the eyesight beyond restoration of many in the past? Why Government is insensitive towards banning this lethal weapon despite having ample proof that this so called non-lethal weapon is immensely deadly and destructive? Aren’t these rulers having their own kids?” these are the questions parents of these victims poise. Recounting the fateful day, Farooq Ahmad Malla, a victim says, “A youth from a nearby village shahgund was shot dead by government forces on 14th March in Naidkhai village. Following the killing protests erupted all around in the area.”

“ After coming out of my house in the evening when the protests were over I was fired  by   spree of pellets; though I was not a part of any protest during the day,” Farooq recountsat his home in chake-e-Hakabara in Hajin.

 He says he and his   cousin decided to take a walk outside in the evening after staying confined to four walls  whole day

“When we stood right at the edge of Hajin Bridge, peering down the Jhelum, we heard something coming from the opposite side. It sounded like loud chirps of birds. These little things, which we couldn’t see, hit my eyes. My cousin, Latief Ahmad, was also hit, said 24 year old Farooq Ahmad Malla,” he recalls.

 Eyewitnesses recount that there were no protests at that time.

 A story narrated to this reporter by Hajin 2014 pellet victim Farooq Ahmad Malla who was targeted by Police on March 14, 2014 at his home at Cheke-Hakbara here. And lost both his eyes to the pellets and can’t see anything and has not improved a bit of eyesight till yet and became a burden over the half roofed house of Malla Family. Farooq is survived by father, mother and other siblings. When asked Farooq how he feels to be a pellet victim he said “Till now I have gone outside the state 14 times for my eye surgeries, but despite all the treatment, I cannot see anything. It shatters and devours me from inside, not that I can’t see, not that there is a bleak hope of regaining a vision. But that my mother has to help me even to the bathroom and it agonize me.

The first question his father told me is that what you will do for my son who is blind now. I was dumbfounded at this question. And farooq’s mother wept for what happen to their son. Why was his world destroyed? I stayed silent and was just listening and typing on my notepad even my heart also got numb while witnessing the eye drops which were trickling down from the face of farooq’s mother.

Farooq’s parents said “Farooq was a responsible person in our Malla family and had to shoulder all responsibilities of his home. But now I have to perform all family chores and have to run a brand saw single-handedly, before the mishap Farooq used to run it alone but now is left desolated, so is his family.

Farooq says he used to drive a goods laden vehicle, and used to work at his own brand saw machine but now Farooq is depend on others and is no more a brand saw driver. Farooq says he used to work at a brand saw all time and had no work to do with stone pelting. But when people headed from where these two cousins were having an evening walk were shot by pellets and made them blind for life time. Farooq says, he firstly used to live by a hope that he will get rid from blindness sooner or later, but unfortunately “blindness is constant” he said.

While my conversation with the father of Farooq suddenly farooq’s mother jumps and says he would never come out from his court yard. A jammed room of neighbors prays in numbers for the betterment of Farooq as he is very dear to the entire locality. It pains to them when they see Farooq in this perpetual pathetic condition. Pellets in one of farooq’s eyes are still to be removed, “I will sell everything to get the eyesight of my son back”, and she assures her son.

Since 2008, many youths were killed and blinded by this weapon which Government forces use in Kashmir, which Government claims is “Non-lethal” though it has wreaked havoc over the past six years.

The use of Pellet Guns during the ongoing uprising has come under sharp criticism, with international rights bodies and Members of Parliament from opposition parties demand a blanket ban on its use in Kashmir. In 2013 the State Human Rights Commission [SHRC] said use of pellet guns by government forces was a serious threat to life.

Despite having many lives and many eyes lost to pellets still the Government is reluctant to take adequate steps to stop the use of pellet guns completely. Like plethora of other victims, a fresh pellet victim is Insha Mushtaq Malik, a victim of pellet attack, 14 year old girl from Shopian, whose both eyes were badly damaged by pellets after the uprising of Burhan Muzaffar wani on July 8, will not be able to see again doctors said. Her lost vision should have been an eye-opener to the Government to ban this lethal weapon. But instead their ostrich-like approach has compounded the sufferings of common people.

A police officer who perform law and order duty during the ongoing uprising in Kashmir wishing not to be named said the pellet gun “either kill or snatches ones eye” when showered over demonstrators. And when hits to the delicate part of a body it hits badly he added.

When I left the home of Farooq, after walking a few yards, I encountered a group of Government Forces and stone throwers fighting with each other. Suddenly the forces lobbed Teargas shells and fired pellets and I ran to a shelter, fearing if I lose an eye to pellets then how I will be able to write up a story, I have come miles to gather the story.

Among the protesters, I called a boy from the crowd who was looking shabby and I told him to show me the direction of Parrey Mohallah where Ishfaq and Aijaz’s lives who were also hit by pellets in 2014 like Farooq.

As I reached Ishfaq’s house, I saw Ishfaq in a dark room leaning on a mattress with no family member around wearing goggles and once he heard the screeching sound of a door he said who is there? “Asalamualaikum,” I greeted him. “Walaikumasalam,” he patted my back and told me who are you? I told I am a reporter, I am from Bandipora,” I said. “O.K. Please get inside. “He said. I pushed back the door “Please sit here,” he said. When I start my conversation part with Ishfaq his family came and it looked a Joint family-I had lunch there too. Then, like chapters of a book, Ishfaq’s life was narrated to me. It was like as if a flower had been cut with its petals pierced with holes in a wanton destruction. I listened to every family member. I eavesdropped to Farooq’s sisters and mother when they entered in the room where Ishfaq was leaning on mattress. They were narrating the story of Ishfaq.  I wrote all of it in my notepad. Then I begin my interview with the 2014 Hajin pellet victim Ishfaq Ahmad Parrey 23, who is an apple of their eyes. Ishfaq’s painful story derives me mad as I listened to his horrific story. Ishfaq is a famous young cricketer in hajin, when I entered his room, I saw Trophies and medals that he had won lying decorated on shelves, Ishfaq points out me towards a shelf saying what was my fault that my world has been devastated .Ishfaq used to play a phenomenal cricket and had made his local team proud. Ishfaq says he has lost cricket by losing one eye with pellet by which he can’t see or feel the colors of life anymore. Ishfaq too has not improved his eyesight like Aijaz and Farooq even years have passed. Nothing changed in him except “emergence of more pain in his eyes”.

Even after blinding his one eye and left him battling for life Ishfaq says he was roughed by police many times and was in police station for a long time, after a month when police came to know it that Ishfaq has pellet injury. Ishfaq has neither participated in any protests but he still wonders why he was injured when he was sitting outside his home for a fresh breath after a long time confining inside his room in Parrey Mohallah hajin.

Ishfaq an early school dropout, he has set out to help his father in earning livelihood but now his father has to run his home alone and has to bear the expenses for his treatment. He has two unmarried sisters and 2 minor brothers except father no one is earning in their poor family.

Due to insufficient resources Ishfaq had to leave his studies only after passing the I0th standard to make his family’s conditions good.

I have many FIRs against me in hajin police station. They have many times broken the windows of my home” Ishfaq said. Father of Ishfaq, who works as a carpet weaver, says they are bearing all the costs required for the treatment of Ishfaq on their own and nobody helps us.

Like Farooq and Ishfaq, Aijaz Ahmad Hurra 23 was also hit in  right eye in 2014“I belong to a poor family, my family can’t bear all the expenses required for my treatment my father is a poor man, a labor where from will he get all the money required for my treatment” Aijaz says. “After my pellet injury on my eye I was called by police to the police station and interrogated this is how police is here” he added.

PELLET VICTIMS PARENTS DEMAND

The parent of pellet victims says that only the family knows the pain and suffering for having a blind ward in a home. They demand that this inhumane and barbaric practice of controlling the mob should be immediately stopped so that the other families will not have to undergo such an ordeal and the other innocent eyes can be saved. The only question Gh Mohammad Malla has to the government that “I fail to understand why the Government is using this weapon though many examples of epidemic and dead eyes are in front of them”.

NO HELP FROM ANYONE

Every victim family grumbles that they have been left alone to fend for themselves as no one neither from mainstream politicians nor separatists turned up to assist them. I did not receive any relief or financial help from any side. Till now I had four surgeries in Srinagar and Amritsar and the treatment has cost my family more than five lakh rupees. My father is a labor how can he afford my treatment? Ishfaq says. “Over the years my mom sold all gold to get the money required for my treatment but no improvement in eyesight” Aijaz tells PTK at his home in Parrey Mohahalla Hajin. (PTK)

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