Three young girls in Kashmir are the latest victims of pellets after security forces opened fire on stone pelters in the southern district of Pulwama on Monday.
Thirteen-year-old Ifrah Shakoor, and two others – a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old, both named Shabroza – were left partially blinded after being hit by the small ‘non-lethal’ projectiles.
Seven people were brought to the SMHS hospial in Srinagar after sustaining pellet injuries during the unrest. But families of the three girls say their children were not even part of the protesting crowd.
An officer at the police control room in Pulwama said security forces cordoned off an area near a village in Pulwama on Monday evening to conduct a search operation when stones were lobbed at them. In retaliation, they fired pellet guns.
The government recognises the controversial weapon as “non-lethal” and allows its use for mob control. However, there has been a surge of protest against the guns as scores have suffered severe injuries due to them, including blindness, loss of hearing, and even several deaths.
“Ifrah’s condition is bad,” said Dr Tariq Qureshi, head of the department of ophthalmology, Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar. He says vision might be restored to only one eye.
“The other two girls also have perforating injuries in their eyes. First round of surgeries have been conducted on them and consecutive rounds will be performed in following weeks,” Dr Qureshi said.
Shakoor’s relatives say the girl can’t open her eyes. Her face is pockmarked by pellets and can’t speak because her jaws were injured as well.
Next to her lies 16-year-old Shabroza, who was hit in both eyes. She says she is in tremendous pain.
Her brother Khurshid said his sister was in the house when clashes broke out. Shabroza got injured when she stepped out to see what the commotion was.
A student of class 10, she has exams approaching, but for her and her family, their concern is whether the teen will be able to even see again.
A few beds away from them is 18-year-old Shabroza. The three girls are the worst injured from the seven victims who were brought to the hospital. The young woman’s left eye was perforated by pellets. A first round of surgery has been done so far.
Peace in Kashmir has been tenuous as the Valley has been under curfew since July 8, when militant commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces. Since then, locals have repeatedly clashed with forces over the civilian deaths in the unrest while separatists also called for a shutdown. More than 80 people died in the violence in the last four months.