On May 21, Hamid Nazir, a 16-year-old boy in Baramulla’s Palhalan district, was on his way to a tuition class when he crossed paths with a demonstration.
A volley of pellets was fired at him in close range, with hundreds of them hitting his face.
Doctors have said that he has suffered severe eye injuries, and salvaging his vision would be very difficult. Nazir’s family had rushed him to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, in the hope that he doesn’t lose his eyesight completely.
Now, photos of his pellet-ridden face have gone viral on social networking sites triggering widespread outrage.
According to figures released by the health department, since pellet guns were introduced in 2010, they have damaged the eyesight of more than 200 people. Of late, there have been movements across the Valley demanding the ban of pellets.
“Since 2010, the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) has treated at least 50 cases, where the victims have lost their eyesight in either one eye or both after being hit with pellets,” Dr Sajad Khanday, consultant ophthalmologist, SMHS, told HT.
A study conducted by Dr Shabana Khan, a medical officer with the state health department, shows that most victims of pellet injuries are young men, who have all suffered immense damage to their eyes.“Most of the victims (nearly 75%) were young boys between 16-26 years... They were hit by stones and pellets during demonstrations,” said Dr Khan, who studied 60 cases, all of which occurred within a few months of each other, in 2010.
She warned that pellets fired even from a distance could damage eyesight. “It moves with significant velocity. In many cases, pellets get lodged inside the eyes, resulting in severe injuries,” she added.
In many cases, entire families have had to suffer.Khursheed Ahmad (name changed), from Baramulla district, said, “It’s worse than death to live a life in complete darkness. All those who lost eyesight are as good as dead.”
Social welfare minister Aasiya Naqash, who visited Nazir in hospital, has called for a ban on the weapon.“I was shocked to see Nazir’s conditions. We were always against pellet guns when we were in the Opposition, it should be banned now,” she said.
Senior PDP-BJP coalition government ministers - Naeem Akhtar and Altaf Bukhari - have already backed Naqash’s demand.
The police have contended that without these weapons, controlling mobs is very difficult.“What deterrent do we have then? How can stone throwers be stopped?” asked Javaid Gilani, inspector general of police, Kashmir.
In 2010, several non-lethal weapons - pellet guns, pepper sprays, chili grenades - were introduced in the Valley to help control violent mobs.