Outside the emergency operation theatre at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, a 21-year-old in a dark phiran anxiously checks his cellphone for news from Sirnoo village in Pulwama, where seven people were killed in protests after an encounter with security forces. His cousin is among the 11 injured who were wheeled into the SMHS Hospital.
Speaking of the events of Saturday morning, he said hundreds of villagers had gathered as news of the deaths of three local militants spread through the area before Internet was shut down. The angry villagers surrounded a casper — a mine-resistant armoured vehicle — of the Army.
“It was just after 10.30 am… Army vehicles were leaving the encounter site… The soldiers sitting inside the casper opened fire on the crowd without any warning shots. They did not fire in the air to disperse the crowds,” he said. Police, however, said that the “crowd came dangerously close to the encounter site while the operation was on”. The death toll at Sirnoo by the end of the day was 11 — seven civilians, three local militants and an Army man. The police statement makes no mention of how the civilians were injured.
Dr Rashid Para, Medical Superintendent Pulwama District Hospital, told The Sunday Express that at least 30 patients were brought to the Pulwama District Hospital on Saturday, of whom six were brought dead. “We referred 12 of the injured, those with bullet and pellet injuries, to SMHS and SKIMS (Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences) in Srinagar,” he said.
Five of the injured were taken to SMHS Hospital — three with bullet injuries and two with pellet wounds. SMHS Medical Superintendent Dr Saleem Tak said one of the injured was brought dead. The waiting room outside the emergency OT was filled with young men in sneakers and caps, discussing “the situation” and how no one has a count of the number of such incidents. They bring out their cellphones to make videos of the sloganeering that accompanies every injured who is wheeled in.
Asim Ahmad, accompanying his injured cousin Jehangir, 20, who was being operated upon for a bullet wound to the abdomen, claims Jehangir was “only a bystander like many others”. “The firing took place in an open orchard not more than 100 feet from the encounter site. They could have shot in the air to disperse the crowd, but they did not,” he says.