Photos, videos and eyewitness accounts of security forces allegedly attacking ambulances have flooded the Valley with many activists saying reports of the brutal crackdown on protesters across Kashmir are unprecedented even in war.
Many at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital told HT that scores of ambulances from different districts arrived with window panes and glass shields broken as thousands of people clashed violently with security forces, killing more than 30 and left 1,300 injured in the last four pays.
Ambulance drivers said police and paramilitary personnel attacked them on the way, they added.
Kashmir director of health services Saleem Ur Rehman said around 50 ambulances were damaged in recent clashes but didn’t specify who attacked them.
“Attacks on ambulances is a complete violation of international humanitarian laws. Even if there’s a war, there are certain rules,” said Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) programme coordinator Khurram Parvez.
But deputy inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force KK Sharma said the jawans could never do such a thing and that the personnel were exercising extreme restraint.
Inspector general of police in Kashmir, SJM Gillani, said police are investigating the authenticity of footage of personnel attacking ambulances. “If any of our men are found guilty, appropriate action will be taken,” he said.
But the explanations have failed to convince many people, especially those at SMHS –where least 270 people with bullet pellet and other injuries are being treated.
An eye-witness at the hospital said Aamir Latoo of Bijbehera, a student who suffered a bullet injury and died Monday night, was brought in a damaged ambulance. “Had his ambulance not been attacked and hence not delayed, he might have survived,” the source said.
An amateur video purportedly showing personnel stopping an ambulance, pulling out a youth from it, beating him and then arresting him are doing the rounds on social media and sources said it was shot in Anantnag district.
Another purported photo of a shattered ambulance in Shopian district is going viral on Facebook. Citizens report similar damage to ambulances in Pampore, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam.
Medical superintendent at SMHS, Nazir Choudhary, confirmed many ambulances that came into the hospital over the last three days were damaged but said none of the hospitals’ own ambulances were attacked.
Spokesperson of moderate Hurriyat faction Shahidul Islam said the party possessed photographic evidence of how CRPF personnel attacked ambulances heading towards Srinagar.
The alleged attacks on ambulances are one of the many incidents that activists say are rare even in extreme conflict situations.
The SMHS resident doctor’s association said on Saturday tear gas shell was fired inside the hospital after clashes between angry youth and security forces.
“Violating all international laws and guidelines, forces fired tear gas inside the SMHS hospital,” said Dr Adil Ashraf, president of the association. Dr Choudhary confirmed and said the smoke did go inside the wards and some patients suffered because of it.