SEVERAL INJURED people from south Kashmir brought to Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital on Saturday claimed that they were caught in pellet firing or teargas shells even though they were not part of the protests following the killing of militant leader Sabzar Ahmad Bhat. Security forces maintained that many of those injured today were marching towards the encounter site in Saimoh, a village in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
Having undergone a surgery on his left eye at the hospital, Ghulam Hassan Shiekh nursed his thoughts on how to break the news of his injury to family members. Sheikh, 60, works as a cobbler in the main square of Shopian town, and was hit by pellets all over his body, throat, abdomen, and left eye. “My family doesn’t know about it (his injury). I was winding up business around 1.30 pm after I felt tension in the area. I had taken permission from police and CRPF personnel deployed at the main chowk. I urged them to let me close my business, when suddenly a stone was thrown from somewhere… I don’t know where… and I was hit with pellets,” he said.
Officials at SMHS told The Sunday Express that 14 injured people had come to the hospital until late afternoon. Of them, six were hit by pellets, five had firearm injuries, and the remaining three had teargas shell injuries. For a polytechnic student (he refused to give his name) from Tral’s Dadasara, the native village of militant Sabzar, it was a “rebirth”. The bullet had pierced his groin, say medical reports. “We — a group of five boys — were marching towards Saimoh when the SOG suddenly opened fire at us. I just remember an SOG man pointing his gun towards me… and then I fell unconscious,” the youth said in pain.
The SOG, or Special Operations Group, is the anti-militancy force of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. At SMHS’s emergency ward, final-year college student Sahir Mushtaq’s mother and three relatives, who had just arrived from Saimoh, the same village where Sabzar and his associate was killed in the encounter, said the youth missed death “by a whisker”. Medical records say a bullet had pierced Mushtaq’s left earlobe.
“I thought I was dead the moment I realised I was bleeding,” Mushtaq said. “Along with a few friends I had gone near the place after the encounter ended around 3 pm. I saw three charred houses. We were mentally preparing ourselves for a funeral of the militants… suddenly there was firing from all sides. It was raining bullets.”
Outside the hospital’s ICU, a sullen-looking girl said she is the sister of Sameer Ahmad Bhat, a Class XII student hit by a teargas canister on the left side of the head. His neighbour Ashiq Hussain, who accompanied the family to the hospital, said Bhat’s father, Bashir Ahmad, is a carpenter, and claimed the teen had no role in the protests. Sources in the hospital said his condition is “critical”.