Srinagar, July 13 (IANS) Just 12 years old, Junaid lies in the surgical ward of a hospital here, with a bullet injury. He will survive, doctors say, but he might become impotent.
“Junaid has been hit in his pelvic area which has damaged his genital organs. He may turn infertile,” Kaiser Ahmad, head of the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital, told IANS.
Junaid could not speak to inquisitive journalists and his attendants looked too worried to talk. The young boy, with no knowledge of Kashmir’s complex politics, was on a road when he took a bullet fired by police.
Admitted in the ophthalmology wards 7 and 8 of the SMHS are other children with pellet injuries.
“There are 10-15 children with pellet wounds in our hospital alone. We have operated on most of them,” said Kaiser. “The condition of almost all of them is improving.”
The situation is no different at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) at Bemina in Srinagar. It has nearly a dozen children admitted with various injuries.
“We have received many children with pellet injuries which has hurt their eyes. It is very likely that two or three amongst them will never be able to see,” a doctor said on the condition of anonymity.
The children are among the hundreds who have suffered bullet or pellet wounds after security personnel opened fire at mobs protesting against the July 8 killing of a top militant, Burhan Wani.
The violence has left over 30 people dead — all of them mainly young demonstrators, besides one policeman.
Those attending to the children insist that it was the indiscriminate firing by security personnel — including paramilitary troops — that has led to this crisis.
They argue that even if some of the children may have been part of the street protests, should they have been treated so callously?
“Will security forces open such indiscriminate fire in other parts of India?” asked one anguished parent. “Do police fire to kill in other countries?”
Khurram Parvez, convener of the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), accused the security forces of targeting children at will with no accountability.
“The bullets are being fired above the waistline, which is a demonstration of their anger against people’s participation in Burhan’s funeral,” he said.
Five-year-old Zohra Zahoor, probably the youngest victim of pellet gun firing by security forces, is unaware of the injuries she has suffered.
“I have been hit by a cracker,” Zohra said in a video circulated by the local media here.
“The police uncle hit a cracker on me when I was playing,” she said. “The uncle is bad. Look what he did to my body,” she says.
Communication remains cut off with the restive south Kashmir, which has been worst hit by the violence and which accounts for almost all the fatalities.
But a family which managed to find its way to Srinagar from south Kashmir has brought with them a six-year-old girl who they say got a pellet while playing inside her home.
“My daughter received the injury when she was inside the main gate of our house. It will be the most depressing period of her life,” said her anguished mother Shameema.
The emergency ward of the SMHS Hospital reverberates with pro-freedom slogans every hour or half an hour when an injured is wheeled in.
Young boys, volunteers and attendants ferry the patients shouting slogans such as “Hume kya chahte, Azaadi” (What do we want, Freedom)
Ahsan, who is with the group called Athrout, has been volunterring his services at the SMHS Hospital since the street violence erupted after Wani’s killing.
“It has been very horrific for me to witness such brutality by security forces. To see small children with wounds is not a good sight,” Ahsan told IANS. “What have these children done to earn pellets and bullets?” he asked.
(Ruwa Shah can be reached at email@example.com)