Even when the streets of the Valley are deserted, ambulance drivers are out on the roads; but they avoid sounding the siren of their vehicles for fear of attracting unwelcome attention of both the security forces and the protesters. Over the past few days, these drivers and their ambulances have been caught in the crossfire of clashes between civilians and security forces in the Valley.
According to the J&K Health Department and government hospitals, at least 70 ambulances have been damaged since Friday evening. “Our 55 ambulances have been damaged by security forces and angry protesters,” said a senior health official.
Medical Superintendent, Sher-I-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Dr Farooq Jan said 10 vehicles of the institute were damaged over the last few days. “We have appealed to the people more than seven times, asking them not to damage our ambulances,” he said. Jan added that even staff buses of the institute were targeted.
A statement issued by SKIMS Director Tuesday requested the public “to cooperate with SKIMS staff and as always make sure that the movement of ambulances and other vehicles is not affected anywhere”.
“As you know there has been an unprecedented increase in patient load, especially of critically sick and trauma patients, due to prevailing adverse conditions, managing which needs unrestricted movement of ambulances and other vehicles carrying staff,” the statement said.
Officials at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) said that windowpanes of their two ambulances were smashed.
“I have never seen such a situation in 15 years of my job. The security personnel didn’t listen to us when I was bringing patients from Kulgam,” said one ambulance driver.
Videos of several ambulances that were attacked were posted on social media. Some videos purportedly showed damaged ambulances, and people being dragged out of the vehicles and being beaten by security forces.
The police now say that instructions have been issued to the CRPF in this regard.
“I have got some videos about it from my media friends and others. It has been brought to the notice of the IG, CRPF, who is enquiring into the
matter… Strict instructions have been issued to ensure no such incidents happen,” said the J&K Police chief K Rajendra.
CRPF Inspector General Atul Karwal had on Sunday said that he had no such information. “If such incidents have taken place, we will look into it. The health department has not informed us about any such complaint,’’ he said.
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