Losing sight in Kashmir

The Amnesty International has called for an end to the “dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate” usage of pellet-guns by security forces in Kashmir in a report titled  “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns”. The first of its kind report details the cases of 88 people whose eyesight has been damaged by pellets between 2014 and 2017. Speaking on the occasion, India head of the Amnesty International Aakar Patel  said the damage caused by the pellet guns is “disproportionate”. He bemoaned the fact that pellet guns were selectively used in Kashmir. At the same time, Patel also spoke against the stone-pelting in Valley but added the protests did not legitimize the use of pellet guns. The report on the pellet victims details the havoc wrought by the indiscriminate use of the weapon in Kashmir. Though it documents 88 cases, there are an estimated 1100 of the people, a significant number of them youth, whose vision has been impaired by pellet guns, for many of them irreparably. Pellets have also caused the death of 14 people and injured a massive 7136 people in various parts of body, figures from Valley hospitals reveal.


The Amnesty report gives a poignant description of the lives of the victims. “Their lives have changed entirely, and they are struggling to cope. School-going boys and girls have lost vision in one or both eyes, and have difficulty reading, playing with their friends, or watching cartoons. College students have had to give up their dreams of pursuing higher education. Young men and primary breadwinners of families say that they cannot earn a living anymore, that they are now a liability for their families,” the report states. Many of the victims, according to the report, “show symptoms of psychological trauma and all of them face everyday struggles: of dealing with the darkness they say has descended on their lives, of having to let go of simple pleasures and of preparing for difficult futures”.

It is a pity that it took Amnesty to draw our attention back to these youth. In Kashmir, their plight is no longer part of our collective discourse.The blinded and injured youth of the last year have been left to fend for themselves. It is cynical on our part to project the victims of gross human rights excesses as reference points for the uncounted sacrifices made by the people of state over the past three decades and not do anything for them at a community level. Did anybody help these families to cope with their trauma and pain? Did anybody help them financially? These questions have answers that could embarrass us all – we the lovers of big fat and showy weddings with a penchant for the large, hulking houses that we don’t need. The Amnesty report is a reminder that these victims need our attention and it is time we fulfil our responsibility in this regard.  









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