Another atrocious trigger lately gave Kashmir its youngest pellet victim—whose only crime was her move to breathe some fresh air after teargas suffocated her indoors.
By Altaf Khanday
Marsala Jan wore a wailing face while lapping her sleeping baby, whose eye assault had freaked her out all the way to Srinagar from Shopian. When the young mother reached SMHS hospital, her 18-month old daughter Hiba Nisar was admitted as the youngest pellet victim of Kashmir.
The infant’s entry had renewed the pellet horrors in the hospital. In recent years, as state mostly let duck-hunting aka pellet guns to deal with the street rage across Vale, the “war wards” of SMHS became a shelter home for the perforated protesters — or civilians caught in wayward action.
Some of them had pellets deep inside their vitals; others had even lost their lives to it—like a Pattan’s teen—while many were forever plunged into the darkness, like Baramulla’s Amir Kabir.
But baby Hiba was a different entrant—perhaps a barking example of the growing grotesque street management in Kashmir.
The moment her pelleted eye was vainly treated and bandaged, she occasionally woke up from her induced slumber—aided by tranquilisers, and cried her heart out.
At times, she fought with her enforced darkness by pulling bandage from her right eye. The scene broke her mother into helpless wails—and moistened the scores of eyes inside the ward. Her struggle lasted, till she returned to sleep.
Hiba’s family lives in Shopian’s Kaprin village. On Sunday, November 25, six militants and a soldier were killed in a gunfight in a neighbouring Batagund village. As clashes broke out between local youth and armed forces, the troops fired pellets, bullets and tear smoke shells to disperse protestors.
“It was another day of mayhem in Shopian,” Hiba’s mother recalled. “As protest broke out, the forces gassed our village. It suffocated us inside our homes. As I ventured out with Hiba to breathe some fresh air, the armed forces fired pellets at us. I tried to shield my daughter with my hand, but a pellet had already bored a hole in her right eye.”
The incident took place days before the Indian Army chief expressed willingness to use drones in Kashmir, “if people will accept collateral damage”.
Days later as Hiba was still grappling with her enforced darkness, Bipin Rawat’s “collateral damage” remark sounded madly outrageous — at least, for the mother, who fails to understand: “Why was my daughter targeted?”
But such is the politics over pellets that even the assaulted babies like Hiba and her plight don’t seem to inflict any policy shift in the emboldening security apparatus in Kashmir.
Despite pilling up the sightless souls, the state justifies the rampant usage of pellet guns as a “crowd-control” weapon. Already the mass blinding created by these assault weapons during 2016 uprising became an epidemic of different kind in Kashmir. Even as it triggered the campaign where Indian celebrities were morphed into pellet victims, the controversial gun kept firing with impunity in the valley.
However, to give some respite to Hiba’s parents, two human rights activists—Syed Mujtaba Hussian and Mirza Jahanzeb Beg—approached the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and sought Rs. 10 lakh compensation to the victim.
Days later, Deputy Commissioner Shopian Dr Owais Ahmed responded by providing a financial assistance of mere Rs one lakh to Hiba’s parents.
“But I believe,” said Hiba’s mother, “the biggest compensation could be banning these guns forever.” This is exactly an overwhelming feeling in Kashmir now.
However, the problem is, even the heart-wrenching tragedies aren’t proving enough to ban these ‘blind’ guns. Perhaps now, when these flaked firearms have given Kashmir its youngest pellet victim, some stopcock should be put on it—lest another Hiba would find her way to the hospital!
This story first appeared in December Print Issue of The Indus Post.