Women too bear the brunt of pellet guns

Updated - October 18, 2016 02:11 pm IST

Published - July 15, 2016 01:37 am IST - Srinagar:

A growing number of women, who were just bystanders or curious teenagers, have become targets of pellets and bullets in the Kashmir Valley, with images of pellet-perforated faces going viral, infusing fresh angst among locals.

Insha Mushtaq, 15, a resident of Sedav village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, was watching clashes between a mob and security forces from the second storey of her house when a “flash” from a pellet gun blinded her. It is feared she may never regain her sight. She was admitted to the intensive care unit in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) in Srinagar four days ago and Mushtaq’s uncle, Vakil Ahmad, is hoping against hope. “See for yourself her condition,” a distraught Mr. Ahmad said, pointing at the girl’s face. “She is yet to show any signs of recovery.”

Doctors attending to the pellet victim say her condition is critical. “Pellets are lodged in her skull, throat and eyes. The right eye eviscerated as soon as the pellet had hit her,” a doctor said.

Several ophthalmologists, in hushed tone, admitted that the chance of restoring her sight “is very bleak.”

At least five women patients, including five-year-old Zehra, were being treated at the SMHS for pellet wounds. One woman, Yasmeena Akhtar, 24, a resident of Kulgam, who had sustained bullet wounds, succumbed on Monday.

Anger in social media

A Class 9 student, Mushtaq’s pellet-embedded image is already evoking angst online. “Is she a terrorist? What justifies this indiscriminate use of force?” asked Nazeer Ahmad, a social media user, calling for more street protests.

Shameema, 25, a resident of Bijbehara, is battling for her life. Now in a ventilator, Ms. Shameema was hit by a bullet when the security forces charged at stone-throwing protesters. The bullet paralysed her body.

Another victim, Tamana, 10, a resident of Ganderbal, has pellets lodged in her left eye. She claims she too was merely standing near the window of her house when a “blinding flash exploded”.

Dr. Riyaz Ahmad Daga, spokesman of the Doctors Association Kashmir, said “the situation is alarming and we need services of senior doctors round-the-clock at this crucial time.”

Introduced after the 2010 street agitation as a non-lethal weapon, the pellet gun can fire more than 400 high-velocity ball bearings simultaneously. There is growing concern among rights groups against its use.

A petition signed by more than 3,000 netizens on change.org, mainly from the Valley, has urged the Union Home Ministry to stop the use of pellet guns.

“Pellet injuries, especially in the eyes, render the victims disabled for life. The use of pellet guns to control crowds is banned all over the world. It is most essential to order the immediate stoppage of its use in Kashmir,” the petition stated.

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