‘It’s man-made epidemic of dead eyes, largest in world’
The past four months have taken the highest toll on the vision of youth in Kashmir with eyes of 1178 persons getting pierced by pellet gun shots fired by security forces. While the massive scale of grievous eye injuries as well as deaths due to pellet guns has evoked condemnation from all quarters, the alternative to this crowd-control weapon, promised by Government of India, is nowhere in sight.
In the 123 days of ongoing uprising, pellet shot-guns have perforated 1178 eyes, as per records at Srinagar hospitals. Data accessed has revealed that 991 people with pellet injuries in eyes have been admitted at SMHS Hospital Srinagar in this period. In addition, 135 people with pellets in eyes were provided treatment at SKIMS Medical College Hospital, Bemina. While the total number of pellet hit people being admitted at Srinagar hospitals in the past four months has been 1126, 52 of them had both their eyes injured by pellets.
Doctors have called the huge eye casualties due to pellets an ‘epidemic of blindness’. “In just four months, we have seen security forces using a weapon that has caused injuries in 1178 eyes. This, by any means is an epidemic of blindness,” a senior Ophthalmologist at SMHS Hospital said.
Doctors claimed that ‘Kashmir Blindness Epidemic’ was the largest one caused by ‘man-made causes’. “This epidemic of dead or dying eyes is the largest in the world caused by un-natural causes. Nowhere in history will one find anything comparable to this,” a professor at Government Medical College Srinagar said.
The professor further said that naturally occurring ‘mysterious’ blindness have afflicted countries like Cuba and age related vision loss was also reaching epidemic proportions in many countries but thousands of people losing vision due to injuries in such a short span of time was ‘sadly unique to Kashmir.’
He added that vision loss was almost certain in pellet injury to eye, although degree might vary. “At least 300 people will never be able to see with the injured eyes. All those having pellet induced trauma in eyes will have some degree of vision loss,” many doctors at SMHS Hospital said.
Pellets, as per doctors, have caused irreversible damage to vital areas for vision in hundreds of victims, injuring their optic nerve, macula and retina. Pellets have totally damaged 22 eyes, resulting in the eye being lost (eviscerated) at the site or requiring surgical removal of the eye ball.
Even though New Delhi had promised a ‘halt’ in their use and an ‘alternative’ riot-control weapon, pellet guns have continued to rob Kashmir youth of their vision and even their life in some cases. On August 25, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during a Press Conference at Srinagar had given out assurances that pellet guns would be phased out and an ‘alternative’ be provided to the security forces ‘within 3-4 days’.
Since the announcement, 658 people with pellet injuries have been hit by pellets in eyes. Pellets have also caused damage to vital organs in scores of youth, some ending with lifelong disabilities.
The teenage group, people below the age of 20 has been the most affected with eye injuries. Doctors said over 50 percent of the injured are people who are yet to reach 20 years of age. Most of the injured in this age group are students.
Pellets have also caused vision impairment in over 150 minors, those who are below 15 years of age. Even children as young as four and nine years have been hit by pellets in eyes destroying their vision.