Umar Showkat has undergone two surgeries since July 22 after pellets fired by the forces perforated his right eye. But his vision still remains affected. Showkat is 13. In fact, among the 635 people admitted in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS)’s Opthalmology department, he is just another number.
Of the 635 people hit by pellets in their eyes in more than two months of public upsurge in the Valley, 30 are less than 15-year-old. And more than 80 percent of the injured are less than 26 years of age.
Each day the beds in SMHS hospital’s Opthalmology wards see new patients – what remains same are the pellets in their eyes and the black goggles. The only hospital with a full-fledged Opthalmology department, SMHS hospital has seen an unending rush of civilians hit by pellets.
At least 635 people with pellet injuries have been admitted to the Opthalmology wards till September 9 since the Valley erupted in protests following the killing of militant Commander Burhan Wani. The number means each second hour an eye is hit by the pellets. 32 people among the admissions had been hit in both of their eyes
“They have no names and most of them prefer to write Burhan to avoid police profiling. The names and addresses are fictitious and now we have given them a number for identification,” a senior doctor in the hospital said.
The hospital records reveal that 247 people who have been hit by pellets belong to the age group of 16 to 20 – almost all of them are school or college students. 228 of the 635 admissions in the Opthalmology department fall in the age group of 21 to 25. 66 of the pellet victims fall in the age bracket of 26 to 30.
The state government in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court last month said the patients would require a follow up treatment for atleast one year and it is “too early” to say that the injured have lost their vision. “Most of the patients need two or more surgeries after primary repair as multiple structures of the eyeball have been damaged and the chance of developing trauma related complication is very high,” state’s Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganai said in an affidavit to the court.
Nine people hit by pellets are forty-years-old or above and 22 of the admitted people injured during the protests belong to the age group of 30 to 40. Doctors say the number is unprecedented and depressing. “In just three days after the Home Ministry said the pellets will only be used in rarest of rare cases, we received 65 eye pellet injury cases. It seems the “rare” pellet terminology has got a redefinition,” a surgeon in the hospital said.