Srinagar, Dec 10: On Friday afternoon, 30-year old Sabzar Ahmed, a resident of Shopian nursed the pain due to pellet injuries in his right eye at SMHS Hospital here. Although it had been 24 hours since he got injured, he was yet to come to terms with the disability staring at him. But for doctors, he was one of the over thousand treated for similar and even worse eye perforations in the past five months.
As per official records, 1155 people have received eye injuries due to pellets fired by security forces since July 8 when pro-freedom protests erupted all over Kashmir.
Sabzar, a mason, said he was injured at Arwani when security forces fired pellets while he was among the crowd running for safety as an encounter was underway in the area. “Had I not looked back, my eye would have been alright,” he said.
Engaged some months back and with wedding dreams in his eyes, Sabzar’s is another name in the list of those blinded in their prime by this weapon of crowd control used extensively by forces in Kashmir in the 2016 uprising. His family has not been told about the injury, an attendant identifying as a cousin of Sabzar, said. “How will they bear the pain of their loved one losing an eye?” she said.
Pellet guns have caused an ‘epidemic of blindness’ in Kashmir, as per doctors and in most cases the injuries are disabling. The records reveal that the most affected age group is between 15-20 years.
This month, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning US rights group, Physicians for Human Rights, in its report ‘Blind to Justice: Excessive Use of Force and Attacks on Healthcare in J&K, India’, gave an expert analysis and investigative account of pellet shot guns. The report has been compiled by experts from PHR and independent policing experts.
The expert group has called pellets ‘indiscriminate, inherently inaccurate and capable of penetrating soft tissue even at a distance’.
The PHR report states that the Ordnance Factory that manufactures 12-gauge pellet shot guns, has conducted no testing on the safety of the 12-gauge shotgun and that the weapons are produced with little regulatory oversight and accountability.
It has asserted that these types of weapons cause ‘serious injury, disability, and death’ and that it was misleading to call the weapon that were ‘inherently lethal and indiscriminate’ as ‘less than lethal’.
However, despite this report, and a number of earlier reports and medical literature that elucidate the lethal nature of pellet shot guns, plus the thousands of serious, life-threatening and disabling injuries and over 1200 eyes (some individuals losing both eyes), the pellet guns continues to be used.
Eye doctors in Kashmir and those visiting from other states to treat the injured, have for a long time decried the use of pellet guns for the sheer gravity of eye injuries they have seen these ‘non-lethal weapons’ inflict.
In spite Ministry of Home Affairs appointing a seven member committee for exploring alternatives to pellet guns, these weapons continue to blind eye after eye in Kashmir.