‘Have I Lost My Eyesight’: Lament After ‘Curfewed Mourning’ in Kashmir

Photo Courtesy Mudasir Ahmad

Those hit by pellets in their eyes during the recent Muharram procession in Kashmir are now blankly staring at the bleak future.

‘PAPA,’ asked Tanveer, 16, to his father Nazir Ahmad, ‘when will I be able to see again? Have I lost my eyesight?’

His father, a shopkeeper by profession, didn’t have any answers.

All he said to his son was to keep faith in Allah. “Gobra, sui chu gash nen’e woul ti, ti din’e woul ti” (God is the only one who gives and takes away light of eyes).

This tear-jerking exchange between the eye-bandaged son and helpless father took place in Ward No. 7 of Srinagar’s State (SMHS) Hospital.

On Saturday, Tanveer was part of a Muharram procession at Hamdaniya Colony in Bemina, on the outskirts of Srinagar, when police fired pellets and teargas shells to disperse the procession.

And soon, this class 10th student, writhing in pain presently, became another pellet-perforated young face of the valley.

His viral image prompted netizens to condemn the latest spree of “pellet terror” in Kashmir.

Doctors who operated on Tanveer say pellets have ruptured his right eye, damaging his optic nerve, while one pellet has made a hole in his left eye.

In the same ward, Suhail Abbas Mir, 20, a class 12 student, is lying silent in his bed.

A pellet hit mourner undergoing treatment at hospital

The boy has four pellets stuck in his right eye. He was operated upon late on Saturday night and is scheduled to undergo another surgery in 15 days, said his father.

The boy along with other friends was arranging refreshment for mourners in Bemina on the day of pellet attack.

“Police fired pellets and teargas shells at us,” Suhail told Kashmir Observer over phone. “They were ruthless against mourners.”

More than 90 mourners, including young boys, were injured. Most of them were first taken to nearby Imam Hussain hospital for treatment where from they were referred to the SMHS hospital.

According to reports, many victims have not gone to the hospital fearing police action. Earlier, many videos of mourners removing pellets at home went viral on social media.

“Police easily get the record from the hospital so it was better to treat myself at home,” said another victim of “pellet horror”, wishing not to be named. “But unlike Tanveer and Suhail, I’m fortunate enough not to suffer a crippling eye injury.”

Many mourners, whom Kashmir Observer spoke to, said they witnessed this kind of force against the mourners for the first time.

“Although, the restrictions are there for decades but we never witnessed this kind of repression. We defied the restriction but we didn’t pelt stones,” said Ghulam Ali, a resident of Bemina’s Khomeini Chowk.

Many injured were treated locally for fear of police. Photo Syed Shahriyar

While recalling the incident, Ali said it was mayhem all around. “The houses and roads were not visible for an hour, as the teargas shelling engulfed the whole area,” he said. “One can only imagine the amount of teargas shells used.”

‘Provocative Slogans’

However, a police officer told Kashmir Observer that there was “a lot of provocation” from the mourners’ end and some “miscreants” pelted stones on police force.

“You must have watched Azadi slogans on different videos,” the police officer said, making it curt.

However, many mourners from Bemina asserted that they passed through different localities before reaching Gari Kadal which links Hamdaniya Colony with Khomeini Chowk. Here a posse of policemen intercepted them and prevented the procession from moving towards Imam Bargah.

“When the mourners offered resistance and tried to march towards their destination, the cops resorted to baton-charging and fired teargas canisters to disperse them,” said Mohammad Ali, an eyewitness.

The mourners, he said, regrouped and continued to carry on with their march. Ali said the situation took an ugly turn when pellet guns were used against the mourners, leaving many injured.

“The police action angered the mourners,” Ali said. “They started chanting pro-freedom and anti-India slogans and engaged cops in pitched battles. Due to the clashes, Gari Kadal and adjoining localities turned into a battleground.”

‘Mild Force Used’

Police, however, claimed that mild force was used to disperse Muharram processions after “some mourners pelted stones on the policemen, injuring dozens”.

In a statement, a police spokesperson said the mourners were told that processions were not allowed in wake of Covid-19 pandemic.

“During intense stone pelting more than 15 police personnel were grievously injured, who were immediately hospitalised. The police have exercised maximum restraint despite grave provocation by the miscreants,” the police spokesperson claimed.

He said a case under FIR No. 58/2020 stands registered in PS Zadibal and investigation has been taken up.

‘A Day of Karbala’

Raqib Ali, an eyewitness, whose cousin Mohammad Danish, was also hit by pellets, alleged that at Zadibal area of Srinagar, the procession on the day of Ashura was initially allowed, only to face “indiscriminate” use of pellets and shells later.

“I saw many women mourners lying on the road with pellet injuries, who were later locally treated,” Ali told Kashmir Observer. “It was day of Karbala in Zadibal.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is a Srinagar-based journalist and tweets @AuqibJaveed.

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