Zafar Aafaq | Caravan Daily
SRINAGAR – A new report released by a top Kashmir based rights group Association of parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) has found that the victims of pellet violence committed by state forces in Kashmir are living a painful life as they struggle to grapple with life-altering problems like blindness, depression, financial constraints, uncertain career, and daily life issues.
The Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) founded in 1994 by family members of victims of enforced and involuntary disappearances in Kashmir works primarily to seek justice and information on whereabouts of disappeared family members. The association often collaborates with other rights groups to collectively raise the voice against human rights abuses.
The report titled ‘My world is Dark’ released online on Monday tells how families struggle financially as the income is spent on healthcare of the members carrying lifelong injuries sustained in pellet firing by the police and paramilitary forces.
The victims of pellet injuries mentioned in the report are young and overwhelmingly male.
The report says that most of the victims belong to underprivileged families and in most cases the families are forced to live in penury as the sole breadwinner is injured and unable to find work.
“Being a sole bread earner for the family, this injury caused to him has not only put a strain on our family income but his treatment has cost us a fortune and has put us in debt,” Abdus Salam, father of Khursheed Ahmad Lone— a victim whose left eye is damaged due to pellets—is quoted in the report.
Pellet shotguns were introduced in Kashmir in the summer of 2010 during the peak of the mass uprising as a ‘non-lethal’ weapon of crowd control. However, there have been many instances when civilians have been shot dead in targeted attacks using pellet guns. The summer of 2016 saw widespread use of pellet guns by police and paramilitary forces during months-long the mass protests and curfew following the killing of popular militant commander Burhan Wani. The use of pellets left thousands injured and hundreds blind.
According to the report, young boys who have been hit with pellets in the eyes suffer from depression and nightmares.
“After losing my right eyesight…I have horrible nightmares wherein I see that I am always in the middle of somewhere, being hit with the pellets continuously,” reads the testimony of Mudasir Ahmad Malla recorded in the report. “My life has changed. Earlier I had thought of so many things, like doing great things in my life, to become a great engineer. But now all that seems a distant reality. All of it now seems just a dream which I cannot realize now. I hate to meet people. I hate the noise. I hate everything now. I don’t want to go to school. I feel helpless. I have no hope of justice. I think that those who blinded me will not be punished. Instead, they will be rewarded. This is how the government works here.”
Speaking to Caravan Daily, Ms Parveena Ahanagar, Chairperson of APDP, said that the purpose of the report is to raise voice against oppression so that nobody in the future has to face the horror of pellets. “We cannot afford to stay silent.”
She thanked the volunteers who worked “with a passion to compile this report.”
Referring to the infamous milk and toffee remark former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti had made at a press conference in 2016 to justify use of pellets against children, Ms. Ahanagar said that with this report people will come to know the reality. “Truth is light.”
While castigating the government for its failure to rein in the forces, the report mentions that it has been unclear what the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for using pellet-firing shotguns is, and whether it was followed. The report says that doctors contradict “the Jammu and Kashmir the police’s stated standard operating procedure (SOP) of aiming for the lower body when resorting to firing ‘non-lethal weapons’”.
Narrating the ordeal of a woman victim Ulfat Hameed Parray, the report records, “I ran inside, followed by an STF man who pinned me to the ground with the stock of his Rifle. And then, he aimed the pellet shotgun at me. I tried to run but an array of pellets hit me all over my face. I cried and wailed in pain.”
Ulfat whose left eye is damaged completely due to pellets and right eye is partially blinded often wakes up in the middle of the night due to scary dreams. “My world is dark and full of horror and I am a living dead.”
Several human rights organization including Amnesty international have asked India to ban the use of pellet guns in Kashmir. However, pellet guns continue to be used to deal with protests in Kashmir. According to the latest news reports, hospitals have received numerous patients with pellet injuries since the 5th of August when the current lockdown began as the Indian government removed Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.
The report calls for ban on the use of pellets and asks investigations into all incidents where the use of pellet-firing shotguns led to deaths or serious injuries.