‘I want to overcome what pellets did to me. I want to take control of my life again’
InshaMushtaq, the teenage girl completely blinded by pellets fired by government forces during the 2016 uprising in Kashmir, is currently taking her class 10 examination, asserting that she would not give in to her disability and is determined to continue her studies.
On 18th of this month, Insha walked out of her house to write the fourth paper of her board examination. She was accompanied by her cousins.
“They come with me to the exam center where my helper waits for me,” said Insha.
The visits to the examination center are the only times she ventures out of her residence.
“I never went back to school to study after I lost my vision. I had gone there just once to meet my friends,” she said.
The examination helper is a student of a class lower than Insha’s and selected by authorities to write her papers on the basis of dictations by Insha.
“She (the helper) is very cooperative. I can’t read question papers, but she reads them for me,” Insha said, smilingly.
Insha was grievously injured on the evening of 12th July 2016 at her residence in Sedow, Shopian, when a patrol party of government forces fired pellets at the window of her house where she was standing. The injuries resulted in total blindness in both her eyes, apart from a long ordeal of recovery from brain hemorrhages and skull fractures.
“I want to overcome what pellets did to me. I want to be able to take control of my life again,” Insha said.
With no vision at all, the decision to continue studies was a tough one for Insha. Crediting her family for giving her all the confidence to pursue her studies, Insha said that now her only goal is to “study as much as I can.”
“For now, I am just focusing on class 10. I don’t know where and how I will study further, but I know I have to,” she said.
In February this year, Insha returned to her home after months of treatment at the all-India institute of medical sciences, New Delhi, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Mumbai and many other hospitals for brain infection and surgeries that attempted to bring back some vision in her left eye. Her right eye was completely eviscerated due to the injury.
“When I returned home, I could not even move around in my own house. I did not even know if it was my house. Without eyes, everything feels different,” she said.
Blinded, she then embarked on another tough journey: adapt to her surroundings and changed circumstances with her courage and determination.
She started learning Braille from a local teacher. But, being still a beginner at it and hell-bent upon appearing in the class 10 exams just a few months later, she had no option but to study from regular books which she could not see.
A tutor came to her house every day, read aloud to her from the books and Insha recorded what he narrated. Later, she would play the recording, try to comprehend and remember it.
“Sometimes, I did not need to hear the recording and memorised while the tutor read aloud. But sometimes, I had to listen and listen again. Class 10 exams are not easy,” Insha, who has become a symbol of resilience, said. “I did well in exams till now. I hope I will get through.”
Her father Mushtaq Ahmed and mother Afroza said that they would never give up on their daughter’s welfare. “She is an unfortunate victim of pellets. And at the end of the day, all she has is Allah and we parents to help her,” Ahmad said. “We will do everything to help her do whatever she aspires to.”
However, there is very little scope for blind people in her far-flung village. The nearest higher secondary school is about 15-kms away. The uneven terrain of the high altitude village does not provide scope for easy mobility.
The impoverished family, with limited resources, received a help of Rs 2 lakh from the government. The dilapidated dwelling of Insha narrates the story of financial hardships. But she seems indomitable as she prepares for her last paper.