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As Kashmir death toll rises, a Srinagar hospital struggles to save lives

Four days after Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter along with two associates, Kashmir is still gripped with violence and unrest. According to reports, the death toll stands at 30 at least, with over 1300 injured, as hospitals struggle to treat them.

india Updated: Jul 12, 2016 18:20 IST
Sheikh Saaliq
Kashmir violence

An injured man lies at a local hospital in Srinagar. According to reports, at least 30 people were killed, and over 1300 injured during clashes between Kashmiri protesters and government forces.

Amidst ambulance sirens and chants of slogans, a young man is taken out on a stretcher by a group of people outside Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital.

As he is taken inside the hospital, people surround him and take photographs.

“Make way for him, please. He will die of suffocation,” says a hospital volunteer, amidst the chaos.

Hordes of people still follow the stretcher. Lying on it is Manzoor, a wide-eyed clean shaven man in his twenties, with a gunshot wound in his lower back.

Outside, people surround the ambulance in which Manzoor was ferried. “Where are you coming from?” somebody from the crowd asks the driver.

Read: 30 dead, 1,300 injured in Kashmir violence, PM appeals to maintain calm

“Pulwama,” the driver answers. “More ambulances are on the way. I somehow managed to reach before others.”

It has been four days since Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter along with two associates. Since then Kashmir has been engulfed in street protests that have claimed at least 30 lives and 29 of them are from the restive south Kashmir.

The violence, however, hasn’t stopped. More protests are being reported across Kashmir and reports say police and other paramilitary forces have fired directly at the protesters to quell the violence at most places.

Kashmiri protesters throw stones at police during clashes in Srinagar. Street protests have claimed at least 30 lives and 29 of them are from the restive south Kashmir. (Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo)

Gunshot wounds, eye injuries

Frantic calls for help can be heard inside SMHS Hospital, where more than 200 people have been admitted since the last three days. Most of the injured are from south Kashmir.

SMHS medical superintendent, Dr Nazir Ahmad Chaudhary, says more than 17 people have serious bullet injuries.

“The situation has been very bad since all this started. Patients are being admitted with upper body bullet injuries. One of the patients has serious head injuries and he is being treated upon,” Dr Chaudhary says.

The hospital has recorded five deaths due to bullet wounds and all those who died belonged to south Kashmir.

“Most of the critical patients are being referred here from south Kashmir. We also have two females with bullet injuries in the abdomen,” Dr Chaudhary says.

Shahid Fayaz, a Class 10 student, lies silently on a bed. A resident of Larnoo in south Kashmir’s Kokarnag, Shahid was coming home after offering prayers at Wani’s funeral when a group of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel allegedly fired at people. He was shot in the abdomen.

“The doctors are saying that the next 24 hours are critical. They [doctors] are worried about the infection,” Mohammad Afzal, his father, says.

With half of his body covered in bandages, Shahid spoke in a low tone. It’s more like a murmur. “All I wanted was to see Burhan’s face.”

People carry a man with eye injuries to a local hospital in Srinagar. Apart from the 17 patients with bullet injuries, SMHS Hospital has also treated more than 77 people with eye injuries due to pellets. (Waseem Andrabi / HT Photo)

Next to Shahid is Mudasir, one of the first patients to be treated by the hospital. Shot in the back, he has been unable to move his lower limbs that doctors say will take time to heal.

Shani, 25, who was married last month, is one of the women being treated in the emergency surgical ward for a gunshot wound to her lower abdomen.

Unlike the others who were injured, Shani wasn’t part of any protests. Minutes before being shot, Shani was patiently watching a television news channel that was reporting on Wani’s death.

As people in Islamabad town were coming back from Wani’s funeral in Tral, police resorted to teargas shelling and aerial firing. Concerned for her younger brother, Shani followed him to find out what was causing the commotion outside.

As soon as she crossed the gate, she was shot.

“Shani was shot at directly. They [police] were frustrated. They tried to kill everybody,” her husband alleged.

Apart from the 17 patients with bullet injuries, the hospital has also treated more than 77 people with eye injuries due to pellets. Two hospital wards, 7 and 8, have been designated to treat people with eye injuries.

Seventeen-year-old Farhat’s right eye is covered with a thick bandage. “Doctors say that there are little chances for him to regain his eyesight,” his father, who was sitting next to him, said.

Most of the injured are in their early twenties.

Doctors in the hospital, who have been on duty since the past 72 hours, are enraged and exhausted. Most of them say the number of casualties is higher than that from 2010.

“The rate at which killings are happening is multiple times more than that of 2010 when around 120 protesters were killed,” a doctor at the hospital says.

Helping hand

As more and more injured are being treated in the hospital, local volunteers and NGOs are also chipping in. Volunteers outside the hospital can be seen offering food and water to the patients, ambulances drivers and press alike.

Read: The Kashmir manifesto: Delhi’s policy playbook in the Valley

Many say if it weren’t for the local ambulances, the causalities could have mounted drastically.

“I have been accompanying my elder brother here for the last two days. He was injured after a teargas shell hit him. We brought him here in a private ambulance and since yesterday I have seen hordes of private ambulances ferrying the patients,” Sajid, a resident of Kulgam, said.

While Srinagar roads remain empty and full of concertina wires, some residents are also thronging to the hospital to donate blood for the injured.

“These (injured) people are resisting for us. We also need to do our bit,” a donor said.