Kashmir: Losing Eyesight

Insha Malik, a fifteen years old ninth class student is one of the injured who received eye injury after being hit by pellet gun shots in the on-going turmoil.
Kashmir: Losing Eyesight
File Photo

Insha Malik, a fifteen years old ninth class student is one of the injured who received eye injury after being hit by pellet gun shots in the on-going turmoil. The doctors say there are 'zero chances' that she may be able to see light again. Since the death of Burhan Wani, more than forty people including a police official have been killed and nearly two thousand including 200 security forces have been injured in clashes between protesters and the forces. Among the injured, 150 mostly between 9 to 21 years of age have received injuries to their eyes. The 3- member team of eye specialists sent by central government to assist the local doctors in treating people injured due to the pellet guns have said that it is war like situation in the valley. Prof. Sudarshan K Kumar heading the team said that 'I haven't seen such a number of pellet injuries in recent years, causality of this magnitude can be seen only in a war like situation. He further said 'pellet guns should not be used. …'   According to the doctors majority of them may not be able to see again. Most of the civilian causality has been mainly because of the bullet injuries above the waist. Magnitude of the causality caused by Indian security forces including J&K Police and CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) has shown yet again their unwillingness to use non-lethal weapons to disperse the protesters. Pellet guns in the state of J&K  was first used during 2010 mass upsurge in which 120 young Kashmiris were killed, by the security forces as a non-lethal weapon to disperse the protests. The pellet guns may not kill people but in most of the cases it causes very serious injury particular when fired above the waist, which generally has happened. According to the experts the pellet guns send in one shot 300 to 500 high velocity metallic pieces made of lead into different directions targeting several people simultaneously and causing multiple organ injury among those who get hit. Eye being the most delicate part in a human body is inflicted most seriously. Well known human rights activist, Abdul Manan Bukahri, in his book titled, Kashmir: Scars of Pellet Gun, said that in the last few years more than 10 people have lost their lives because of the pellet shots and 15 hundred cases of pellet injuries have been registered in different hospitals many of whom seventy person have received injuries to their most vital body organs including eyes. 

In 2010, when NC (National Conference) was in power and used pellet guns to disperse protesters, Ms. Mehbooba Mufti, current chief minister of the state condemned pellet guns as a mechanism to counter protesters and demanded its immediate ban in the state.

Over the years national and international human rights groups including, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International etc. have urged the state government to ban pellet guns. However, so far nothing has been done to stop this lethal weapon. In fact, the increasing number of pellet injuries in the ongoing clashes suggests that government is in no mood to replace this lethal weapon with some non-lethal machinery. Unfortunately both state and central government seems in denial mode and instead of the addressing the root cause of the Kashmir issue are playing with words. The chief minister of the state- Ms Mehbooba Mufti in her recent appearance on TV instead of talking tough to her state machinery has blamed parents and Pakistan for scores of deaths witnessed in yet another mass upsurge in the valley. Like 2010 we may see temporary end to this cycle of violence but if the government of India doesn't look seriously into the matter and acknowledge Kashmir as political dispute, we are bound to see a never ending violence in the streets causing loss of young blood which leads to further alienation and anger of Kashmiris. The government of India should learn from history particularly since 1989 that Kashmir is a political dispute with international dimension to it; any unilateral attempt to address it may not produce desired results. Neither it can be suppressed through military might nor disfigured by economic packages. It requires a sustained peace initiative involving the concerned parties- India, Pakistan and Kashmir based political forces (both mainstream and separatist) and take Vajpayee's legacy forward. This can be initiated by ensuring fundamental rights to Kashmiri people followed by many other steps life such as bridging the gap between Delhi and Kashmir. Indeed it required some degree of boldness from the India Political leadership but that's the need of the hour in order to bring peace in the region in general and in Kashmir in particular. 

(Samir Ahmad is teaching at the Central University of Kashmir, Srinagar) 

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