Paramilitary personnel used pellet guns, tear gas and pepper gas against crowd; 12 suffer eye injuries
Umer Beigh/ The Dawn News/ May 28, 2018
At least 50 civilians were injured after Indian forces attacked protesters who had taken refuge on the premises of historical Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on May 25. At least 12 protesters suffered eye injuries due to pellets. The floor of the mosque was covered with the blood of the injured and the fountain inside briefly turned red. This attack in which forces barged in and began firing pellets, tear gas canisters and pepper gas, took place a week after New Delhi called for a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir.
“In my 56 years of being a muezzin of this revered mosque, such an assault by the Indian forces is taking place for the first time. Even in the 1990s, when militancy was at its peak, the mosque was spared of such assaults,” Mohammad Yaseen, who lives downtown, said.
According to eyewitnesses, policemen, alongwith paramilitary vehicles, were stationed close to the mosque. Some of the people who came out of the mosque after finishing their prayers began shouting anti-India slogans, while some other moved towards the forces, pelting stones. In retaliation, the forces fired rounds of tear gas canisters, followed by another round of pepper gas.
Basit Ahmad, who lives in downtown Srinagar, was among those who suffered eye injuries after being hit by pellets.. As he cried in pain, he was rushed to a nearby hospital. Doctors who operated on him in ward 8 of SMHS hospital noted that he required multiple operations and said the chances of his eyesight being restored were slim.
One of the injured was offering prayers when he was hit by pellets in the back. Another victim, who was hit by pellets on his head, told reporters, “When I touched my head, blood was rapidly oozing out and my face was all red.”
Umar Farooq, the head priest of the mosque, who is also the President of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, condemned the use of force: “Heavy deployment of government forces around Jamia Masjid, even in this holy month, [is] leading to tension and agitation. Dozens of civilians [were] injured after forces resorted to pellet and teargas shelling. Large number of people [were] unable to come out of the mosque. Condemn the deployment and forces’ action,” he responded.
The State police however claimed that “almost 800 miscreants assembled near the main gate of Jamia Masjid and… started heavy stone-pelting on the forces. However, forces showed utmost restraint and some ammunition was used to disperse the miscreants and hence minimal force was used to control the situation”.
Introduction of Pellets Guns
The incident has yet again brought to the fore the extent of injuries due to the use of pellets. This controversial ‘non-lethal’ weapon was introduced in Kashmir in 2010 under the pretext of limiting civilian casualties. However, they have wrought even more havoc, leading to the maiming of many teenagers, as well the loss of vision for innumerable others.
Over 18 civilians died of injuries sustained from pellet shot-guns and 6,000 civilians were critically injured in the last two years. Mudasir Hajam was the first of the six people killed in August 2010. He died when pellets damaged his lower abdomen. From March 2010 to October 2013, SKIMS hospital in Srinagar dealt with 36 eye injuries caused by pellet guns. And within four months in 2014, 15 patients with serious eye injuries caused by pellets were admitted to hospitals across the valley. The number of youth losing their eyesight only multiplied. In April 2018, in one day, over 50 youths were operated with pellet injuries in SMHS hospital.
“I performed 28 eye surgeries on Sunday (April 8). All cases were bad with perforations due to pellets. Many are at the risk of losing their sight,” a doctor at one of Srinagar’s leading hospitals said.
During the 2016 uprising that lasted for over six months after the death of Burhan Wani on July 8, Indian paramilitary forces are believed to have fired almost 1.6 millions pellets in July and August. At the same time. around 8,600 tear gas shells were used.