Hit by pellets, a youth from South Kashmir's Achabal town will now limp for life. The young Ishfaq Wani had no idea of the impending personal disaster when he, along with hundreds of others, poured out of his home in Achabal town a day after forces killed a militant commander on July 8.
The protesters of which he was part allegedly tried to attack a police station that also houses a Central Reserve Police Force company. The security personnel used both firearms and pellet guns to control the situation.
"At one point I sat down to drink water which a woman offered. As I stood up, I felt a sharp object hit me twice," Wani told IANS, slowly opening up after initial reluctance to recount his pain.
Wani, 27, collapsed in pain, blood rapidly oozing from his leg. For a moment he breathed deep and thought he was about to die.
Others in the protest hurriedly put him on a hand cart and rushed him from the riot zone to a primary health centre.
Given the scale of injuries, doctors referred him to the Bone and Joint Hospital in Srinagar. His family shifted him to a private hospital.
Wani, pursuing Masters in tourism, is one among six children in his family. His father died in 2014. The only bread earner is another brother, Lateef, who runs a small photography shop.
After 14 long agonizing days in hospital, Wani returned home, still in severe pain. Doctors say he might never walk normally again. When IANS met him, Wani was barely moving in his muddy house, using a walker. Wani has been operated upon.
"He may need ORIF – Open Reduction Internal Fixation. It's going to be difficult for him because trauma always has a physiological side effect," an orthopaedic doctor who did not wish to be named told IANS.
Pain is writ large on Wani's face. He has teary eyes when he speaks.
Like Wani, over 50 people were injured on July 9 at Achabal town in Anantnag district. Three protesters were also killed. Another youth, Imlaq Magray, was hit by a pellet on his right eye.
Magray, who too comes from a poor family, was warded in a Srinagar hospital for 11 days. When he returned home, his mother was overjoyed. But she was shattered to learn he had lost vision in his right eye.
The 19-year-old is the youngest among eight siblings — all unemployed. He is admitted in an Amritsar hospital.
Magray's mother insisted that his son never took part in any protests.
"Yes, he went out that day… But he always stays away from these 'azadi' marches," a weeping Saja told IANS.
The Kashmir Valley has so far witnessed over 50 deaths, four in Achabal town alone. Thousands have been injured in the violence which followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen operational commander Burhan Wani.
Across the valley, people are furious over the widespread use of pellet guns that have blinded dozens of young men. There are growing demands for a ban on the pellet guns.
Even if the ban comes by, it will make little difference to Wani and Magray. Wani will limp forever and Magray, unless he is very lucky, will never see from his right eye.