At least 2,524 people were injured by pellets, many in the eyes, in eight of the 10 districts in the Kashmir valley during the crackdown on protests that followed the killing of militant Burhan Wani on July 8 last year, according to data compiled from official records by the J&K government for the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC).
Of these, the government has submitted a list to the commission of 1,725 victims, including 59 women, whose identities have been confirmed by the district administration. Concerned by the extent of damage, official sources told The Indian Express that the state government is devising a comprehensive policy to help those blinded or partially blinded by pellets including government jobs, such as those of telephone operators, for the “worst affected”.
Speaking to The Indian Express, SHRC chairman Justice (retd) Bilal Nazki said the commission had sought records of those who suffered eye injuries due to pellets from all the 10 districts in the Valley in December last year.
The SHRC is yet to receive data from Bandipore and Budgam, and the details submitted by the deputy commissioners of Baramulla, Shopian and Kulgam include all pellet injuries. The report from Ganderbal did not specify the extent of injuries.
“We are in the process of finding out the exact nature of injuries caused by pellets and identifying victims who have been fully or partially disabled or need extended medical treatment,” Justice Nazki said.
With a large number of eye, “multiple” and “full body” injuries (see box), the data reveals the extensive use of pellet guns by police and security forces during the protests and its devastating effect on the victims.
“Once we took suo motu cognizance, we asked the government to submit details about the pellet victims, the nature and extent of the injuries, etc., so that they get help for treatment and compensation. We have received a list of more than 1,700 people, but have been told that there are more with pellet injuries, especially in the eyes. I am requesting people to come forward to give us their details so that they get help,” he said.
Once this process is complete, Justice Nazki said, the SHRC will have “a clear idea about the level of intervention needed”. The data was made available only after the SHRC issued bailable warrants to at least three deputy commissioners earlier this year.
The J&K government has handed over from the Chief Minister’s relief fund Rs 2 lakh each as financial assistance to 12 victims who have been blinded completely by pellets and Rs 1 lakh each to 10 who have been partially blinded. The government is also planning to utilise a programme by DPS Srinagar co-founder Vijay Dhar for children with special needs to train pellet victims for jobs.
Firdous Ahmad Dar, 25, of Maaz Bugh in Sopore, who lost his eyes, is among the 12 who received Rs 2 lakh from the relief fund. On Saturday, Dar said, he received a call from the Chief Minister’s office, asking him to submit relevant documents for a job.
“It (the compensation) was helpful because we have nothing. My neighbours collected money for my treatment initially. I hope the government gives me a job so that I can take care of myself. And I want to tell the government — please stop these pellet guns. Most of the time, these pellets hit the eyes, and that is worse than killing a person,” he said.
Recalling the incident in which he was injured, Dar said, “On July 15 last year, I was walking home after fetching vegetables, when there was a commotion with three CRPF and police vehicles chasing a group of youngsters. A CRPF vehicle stopped nearby. I looked towards them and was hit by pellets. I fell down. That was the last time I could see.”
Dar said he had completed Class 12 but could not pursue further education because of lack of funds. “I was driving an autorickshaw to support my family. Now, I can’t even go to the toilet without help,” he said.
The plight of the victims led to several campaigns in J&K, including Srinagar-based Jammu Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society, for a complete ban on the use of pellet guns. The Opposition National Conference has also supported a ban. The ruling PDP shares this view but the government hasn’t agreed to a complete ban, saying that pellets will be used in “extreme situations”.
J&K DGP S P Vaid told The Indian Express that police are not averse to a ban on pellet guns. “We try our best not to use it. But there are situations when we are constrained. We want them to be completely phased out. Wherever we have replacements, like PAVA shells, we don’t use pellet guns.”
HIT BY PELLETS
Data from 8 out of 10 districts in the Kashmir valley of those seriously injured by pellets since July 8, 2016:
* Baramulla district: 1,252 victims, including 30 women. Of the 244 in Baramulla town, 65 suffered eye injuries. In Kunzar, four out of 23 victims received eye injuries. In Rohama, one out of 47 received an eye injury and 25 suffered “multiple” injuries. One of the six in Tangmarg suffered “multiple” injuries. In Dangiwacha, three of 99 suffered eye injuries and 13 “whole body” injuries. Among the 131 in Pattan, 26 were hit in the eyes and 32 suffered “full body” injuries. The district report did not specify the nature of injuries of 440 in Sopore, 155 in Sheeri, 107 in Kreeri.
* Shopian: 850 injured by pellets were treated in health facilities, of which 67 suffered eye injuries. “Only 330 have revealed their identities, which includes 51 persons who received eye injuries,” says the report from the district.
* Ganderbal: 137 victims, including 19 women. The administration submitted data only from July 8 to August 21, 2016.
* Kulgam: 154 victims, including 72 with eye injuries, seven have head injuries and 19 who suffered “full body” injuries.
* Four districts (all eye injuries): Kupwara 48, Pulwama 47, Srinagar 27, Anantnag 9.
Note: No data was available from Bandipore and Budgam.