With the death of Pulwama youth Amir Gul Mir on Wednesday, the number of youth losing their life to pellets in the past 50 days of unrest has risen to six.
During the action by security forces on ongoing protests, at least six youth have been killed by pellet injuries as per the records at hospitals, bursting the bubble of the non-lethality of this weapon.
On Wednesday morning, pellet-hit Amir Gul Wani, a 19 year old youth from Pinglin Pulwama was brought to SMHS Hospital. Doctors at the hospital said he had no pulse when he was received at the Trauma Theatre of the Hospital. "We tried to resuscitate him but could not," a doctor who was part of the emergency team at the hospital said.
Amir, doctors said, had 40-50 pellets in his chest. "He had a major intra-thoracic injury and pericardial effusion," doctors said while describing the state in which he was received at the hospital. They explain: pellets had punctured his heart and lungs; his airways were leaking; perhaps a major vessel was perforated too.
Eye-witnesses said forces did not permit the injured to be moved to hospitals. "For over an hour, his friends tried to evacuate him. They (forces) sealed all routes," his brother Aijaz Ahmed said.
Amir had been hit by a tear gas shell in abdomen earlier this year too in Kakapora Pulwama. This injury had cost him his spleen.
Amir was a Class 12 student. "He was studying for the exams," Aijaz says. Apart from Aijaz, Amir's elder brother, his family constitutes his mother, father, who is a laborer, and three sisters.
"After his injury in February, he always used to say, 'Indian forces have snatched my life from me,' as he was not able to do his routine activities due to risk of infections," Aijaz narrates. "This time, they snatched it totally," he says, sobbing.
"Shell in abdomen spared his life, pellets did not," his brother says. Earlier, at least five youth have been killed in a similar fashion, as per reports and records at hospitals. While three of the known casualties due to pellets had brain injuries, two more, apart from Amir Gul had pellets injuring vital organs resulting in their deaths.
This number, doctors said, could be a conservative estimate. "On July 9 and 10, the day massive protests broke out throughout Kashmir following death of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani, at least 16 people died," a doctor at SMHs Hospital said.
"Although we know two died of pellets, the number could be more," he added. He further said that in a number of cases injuries by pellets have resembled bullet wounds, due to being 'fired from close proximity'. Moreover, doctors said, not every person killed was brought to hospitals.
"The Chattabal youth, Riyaz Ahmed, had a single perforation in abdomen, much like a bullet wound," a doctor said. "Only after post-mortem did it come to fore that he had been fired with a pellet gun from a close proximity," he added.
Doctors, time and again, have contested the argument of the non-lethality of pellets, and reasoned that most people hit by pellets have suffered grievous injuries that risk their life.
"Pellets are like mini-bullets. And because its path is unpredictable and a single shot releases hundreds of these, these are more dangerous," surgeons opine.
In addition to the deaths, many youth are either battling for life or have been disabled for the lifetime due to pellet injuries.