Pellet blinded kid’s family reduced to penury, siblings give up studies
Srinagar Feb 07: Eight-year-old Asif Ahmed Sheikh was hit by pellets of Indian forces on July 20 when he had gone out to buy biscuits, according to his family.
“After the day’s strict curfew, men had assembled at main chowk Khanabal when all of a sudden two Rakshak vehicles appeared on the scene. There was no stone-pelting or protests at that time, but the policemen fired pellets and teargas shells without any provocation,” said Asif’s mother, Wazeera Bano.
The family lives in Sheikh Colony, Khanabal, in Islamabad (Anantnag) district. “He insisted on going out to buy biscuits. I gave him a five-rupee coin. After a while, someone informed me that Asif had been hit by pellets. In the hospital I could identify him only by his blood-stained shirt, as his whole face was covered with blood,” Wazeera said.
Asif recalled the incident as: “I was sitting on the shop front waiting for the shopkeeper to pull up his shutter. Suddenly a Rakshak came and first the policemen fired smoke (tear gas shells) and immediately after that, pellets. I fell writhing with pain on the ground. Some uncle took me to hospital on a bike.”
Asif was initially given first-aid in district hospital Islamabad (Anantnag) and then he was rushed to SMHS in Srinagar. During his five days of stay in the Srinagar hospital, Asif was operated on thrice but his vision could not be restored. He was then asked to consult doctors in Delhi’s AIIMS, but even there the doctors couldn’t save his right eye.
“My husband is a daily wager and works as a sweeper in the local municipality. Our neighbors and relatives collected money for our travel to Delhi. Even though the surgery in AIIMS was done for free, we exhausted all the collected money on medicines and for our stay there,” Wazeera said.
As if this tragedy wasn’t enough, Wazeera slipped and fell from the stairs at SMHS while her son was undergoing surgery. Initially, this accident did not cause any serious problem, but after a month she developed severe pain in her back. She was diagnosed with a dislocated disc. “I have been confined to bed for three months now. I am staying at my mother’s place as my husband cannot afford to pay for my treatment or my son’s treatment. Nobody ever came forward to help us. I am unsure about the future of my partially blinded son as well as of myself,” Wazeera said.
Asif can no longer go out and play with kids like he used to. He is unable to read properly. Weeping during evenings has become a norm for him due to the pain he suffers in his eyes, but his family has stopped providing him further treatment due to lack of money.
“Within five minutes of opening a book, my vision gets blurred and my right eye starts aching. That is why I stay under the blanket beside my mother all the time,” the little Asif said.