After miraculously surviving a bullet in his head, young man struggles for dignity

Doctors first declared him ‘brought dead’ to the hospital, but Tariq Ahmad Kantroo survived a bullet in his head during the tumult of 2010.

That injury left his life so devastated that he now wishes he hadn’t survived. But Kantroo’s only wish now is to be able to lead a dignified life and contribute to his family.

In August 2010, Kantroo, 31, was on his way to a the sub district hospital in Tral for a checkup when paramilitary troopers chasing protestors caught hold of his collar and fired at him, he says trying to overcome difficulty talking and tears slipping down his face.

Once removed to the primary health center at Awantipora, Kantroo was declared ‘brought dead’ by doctors. But he opened his eyes as his body was being taken home and was rushed to Srinagar.

The young man, who was 22 then, later spent weeks in the intensive care unit of SKIMS where he was put on a ventilator.

Life for this first graduate from his family since that day has been constant struggle and heartbreak. He says sometimes he wishes he hadn’t survived that bullet hitting his head.

Kantroo’s speech is impaired, one side of his body is paralysed and writing is hard.

“Can you call this life when I am unable to properly talk, walk or write?” he asks.

Eyes wet and using gestures and speech, the young man recalls the most horrible and haunting time of life.

“That day I was on a way towards hospital when from a far distance I saw paramilitary troopers chasing protestors and thought of changing my route,” Kantroo said.

“I took an alternate route but the troopers began to chase protestors from there too and in no time they grabbed my collar and beat me ruthlessly for around ten minutes. A commanding officer of the CRPF battalion angrily asked me to leave. I walked around few yards and he opened fire from his pistol.”

Desperately trying to save himself Tariq shielded his head with his hand and eventually the bullet first ripped his arm and then rammed into his head injuring him critically.

“I remained on ventilator at ICU in SKIMS for weeks together and doctors were less optimistic about me as I was unable to breathe by my own.”

Kantroo used to work as part-time mobile mechanic to earn some money for his poverty-ridden family.

He says coming alive after doctors declared him dead was a miracle.

“I suddenly opened my eyes and my attendants took me to SKIMS Soura where I was admitted for six consecutive months.”

“That officer could have easily fired at my legs but he deliberately aimed at my head to kill me.” Kantroo says.

For many like him, disabled during the turmoil since 1990s, the real struggle starts after the incident.

So far, Kantroo has not received any compensation from the government or any other social welfare organisation.

Back in 2012 the then chief minister Omar Abdullah offered Kantroo Rs 2500 which he refused to accept.

“What can you get out of the paltry amount? I had been using medicines worth lakhs of rupees. Each injection costs 10,000 Rs, Kantroo said.

“It was saddening and shocking on the part of government to get the meager amount as so-called relief. During these years only one Hurriyat leader came to the hospital after the incident and provided me Rs 5000 which also I did not accept.”

Limping and haggard, Kantroo is somehow managing to help his father at their small merchandise store in main town Tral.

Once an ace cricketer now a mere spectator, Kantroo can neither bat nor he can bowl but the passion for cricket is alive in him.

On every Sunday he goes to the local playground where he watches locals play matches to keep his memory of himself fresh.

“I want to live a dignified life. I wish I get a good job so that I can fulfill my dreams and help my family to live a better life. Because of me they have suffered a lot and now I want to earn to make them prosperous.”