On October 31 last year, when pellets fired by government forces injured her eyes and fogged her eyesight, probably for ever, mirth disappeared from her life”
Rohmoo (Pulwama), Jun 6: Every time Muhammad Akbar Bhat finds his 18-year old daughter lost in thoughts, his heart sinks. Shabroza Akhter, 18, was a bubbly girl, inquisitive, one who would never miss a chance to participate in family discussions, often bringing smiles on their faces with her innocent questions.
On October 31 last year, when pellets fired by government forces injured her eyes and fogged her eyesight, probably for ever, mirth disappeared from her life.
“The gravest injury pellets caused to my daughter wasn’t to her eyes but her confidence. She has changed and I find her lost in her thoughts. The smile on her face is gone so is her confidence,” says Bhat.
During the past seven months, Shabroza has undergone two surgeries in her left eye. But there has hardly been any improvement in her vision.
“Everything appears foggy to me. The pellets injured my one eye only but I don’t know what happened to my right eye then. It has also lost vision,” Shabroza says.
After a brief pause, she asks me, “Do you know any good doctor who can treat me and help me get my vision back. Can I get my vision back? This condition frustrates me.”
Her father interrupts.
“She is a poor man’s daughter. But I have tried everything I could to improve her vision so that she does not feel disabled but in vain,” he says.
Coming from an economically poor family, the teenage girl had left studies in class 8.
“I thought I would learn some skill and help my family. School education is just an expense for people like us,” she says. Her elder sister is also a school dropout.
The family’s poverty is evident from their dwelling. Six siblings and their parents live in three small, dilapidated rooms. Bhat and his two sons, one of them a teenager, work as laborers.
“I am a Kangri weaver basically. But when the season is off I work in people’s fields. We have no land of our own,” he says.
Moments later, as Shabroza leaves the room, her father opens up to talk about his daughter’s disability.
“She feels frustrated that pellets have disabled her. She has fits of anger,” he whispers.
Her elder sister is concerned that the injury has caused Shabroza “lose interest in life and living”. “She breaks down every now and then. But what can I do,” she says.
Bhat remembers a doctor telling him at SMHS hospital that her daughter’s vision would “not improve beyond what it is presently”. “No doubt I am poor but I won’t give up,” says Bhat.
Shabroza and her namesake, Shabroza Mir (17), were among the six persons, including four boys, all natives of this little hamlet, who received pellet injuries in their eyes in October when Kashmir was in the midst of an uprising that erupted over the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
“Six people lost eye(s) around this market that day. So many others were hit in other parts of body,” says Ghulam Nabi, a shopkeeper in main market of Rohmoo.
“We can’t imagine the suffering they are enduring. And we are helpless,” he says.