Congress leader and former union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and journalist Prem Shankar Jha faced a hostile crowd at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, when they went to meet the civilians, injured during the ongoing protests, on Thursday but were forced to leave the institute after protests from volunteers and attendants.
Aiyar and Jha who were a part of a delegation of individuals which included journalists and activists were asked to leave the premises while the journalists and others were allowed to visit the wards where they interacted with the injured. “We don’t shake hands with murderers,” attendants told Aiyar, according to a doctor in the hospital.
Sources said the patients met with the group of journalists and activists and narrated the situations during which they suffered the injuries. “They were not allowed to take photographs in the ophthalmology wards, where most of the pellet victims are admitted,” Ubaid Ahmad, a volunteer in the hospital said. “There was anti-India sloganeering inside the wards when they were present.”
The hospital corridors reverberated with slogans like “Go India Go Back” when the ten-member group including social activist Shabnam Hashmi, former Air vice-marshal Kapil Kak and others were in the hospital. “We just want azadi and nothing more,” the attendants told the delegation. Volunteers accompanied the delegation to wards where the injured, including youth who have been hit by pellets in eyes, were admitted.
“The purpose of the delegation was to assess the damage caused by pellet guns and listen to the injured. We were not at anybody’s behest in the hospital,” Bashir Assad, a member of the delegation, who claimed to have co-ordinated their visit, said. Assad was formerly affiliated with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.
Assad said Aiyar was turned back by the attendants in the hospital because of his Congress affiliation and Jha too was asked to leave the hospital. “There is a lack of political response in Valley and it was felt at least the civil society of India should visit Kashmir and feel the pain of people,” he said.
The “civil society members” were the first Indian delegation to visit the hospital since the protests began in Valley following the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8.