NEW DELHI, NOV 21: Following the killing of militant Burhan Wani on July 8 last year, at least 2,524 people were injured by pellets, many in the eyes in the Kashmir Valley, according to the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) of the J&K government.
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, 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.
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.”
He added that the commission is in the process of finding out the exact nature of injuries caused by the pellets and identifying victims who have been fully or partially disabled and needed medical treatment.
“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 the SHRC will have a clear idea about the level of intervention needed, said Justice Nazki.
The data was made available only after the SHRC issued bailable warrants to at least three deputy commissioners earlier this year.
A relief fund Rs 2 lakh each as financial assistance has been handed over by the J&K government 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, recalling the incident 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 is among the 12 who received Rs 2 lakh from the relief fund. 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.
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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 said “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.”
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, with 260 eye injuries, 25 multiple injuries, and 45 who 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.