"Everyone is coughing because of horrible pepper gas. I cannot see my daughter coughing. She vomited everything she had since morning. To all doctors, is there any antidote to pepper gas? quick please."
The SOS of curfew-bound Malik Munfat posted on social networking site Facebook on Thursday evening went viral. Munfat, a resident of Batamaloo area that witnessed daylong clashes between protesters and security forces, was among hundreds of other city residents caught in cloud of pepper gas on Thursday.
From medical advices to bizarre prepositions, Srinagar residents remained hooked to FB for advice to overcome the effects of the gas. "Protesters in Greece found that mixing a 50% solution of liquid antacid and water in spray bottles produces a soothing mist that cools the burning associated with pepper spray," suggested one netizen, while another suggested rubbing of onions under their eyes for eye tolerance.
Pepper grenade was incorporated as a non-lethal weapon after five-month long street agitation in 2010 to quell large assembly of protesters in the valley, prone to agitations and stone pelting. It causes intolerable irritation in eyes, nose, mouth, throat and lungs.
For almost a month now, since the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on February 9, residents of Srinagar city are exposed to pepper gas, fired to quell protesters mainly during evening clashes.
Showkat Hussain Bhat, a resident of Safa Kadal, claims her 65-year-old mother died of exposure to pepper gas. "She was suffering from a chest disease, which got complicated on Thursday following huge fumes of pepper gas in our area," said Bhat.
According to Dr Naveed Nazeer, if the respiratory system is exposed to pepper gas for long, it can prove dangerous like burning of throat, wheezing, dry cough, gasping, inability to speak. "It poses a great risk to people with asthma and other respiratory problems," he said.
Govt seeks report on 'excessive' use of gas
After widespread complaints from residents of Eidgah and Safakadal areas, Srinagar deputy commissioner Baseer Ahmed Khan has directed superintendent of police, north city, Tahir Saleem to file a "factual report" whether the pepper grenades were used or not excessively in these areas.
"I have shot a letter to the police officer. We have to wait and see whether it is true or not," said Khan.
The administration was responding to a formal written complaint of excessive use of pepper gas at Rathpora, Laigaridora Eidgah, on March 6 when the security forces were withdrawing from the area.
Earlier this year, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has also directed security forces to use other methods for crowd control and refrain from using pepper and teargas following complaints of complication to patients, babies and pregnant women.
"The state is duty bound under constitution to protect lives of citizens and in no case are at liberty or have license to adopt such measures that would endanger the health of its subjects in the name of maintaining law and order," SHRC member Rafiq Fida had said.