As we remain blinded towards their plight, Sri Lankan writer shows us the way.Insha Mushtaq is a teenage girl carrying scars—both physical and mental– of pellet-blindness. Her walking out of home for exams in the school was certainly an announcement of assertion, that she won’t give in to her disability. But the never-abandoning feeling of losing the vision permanently was an agonizing spectacle her black goggle reflected. Her looking up to the heaven showed her perpetual dependence on her family. The long-drawn sighs and tears in silence the world would not witness, perhaps not even her parents. She is not the lone sufferer of this man-made epidemic Kashmiris were the selective target of. There were hundreds others the pellet gun snatched their eyesight. Even the best of medical treatment could not enable the victims regain seeing, as was revealed in Insha’s case. Despite state government’s providing her best of facilities at reputed hospitals in Delhi, Insha has but to reconcile the irreconcilable. And like her the other less fortunate who could not get much publicity and state empathy.
In March this year, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti announced that compensation will be provided to the civilians killed or injured during the 2016 uprising. But till this date, as per the information furnished by the deputy commissioners of at least eight districts to the State Human Rights Commission, none of the 1725 seriously injured by deadly pellets has been compensated by the government. The SHRC had sought the report from deputy commissioners after taking suo-moto cognizance of a news report about plight of pellet victims of 2016 mass unrest. In Sopore, for example, where 440 people have been injured by government forces, none has been compensated. Same is the case with other areas of Baramullah. The district wise figures of persons injured but still not compensated are: Kupwara, 48, Ganderbal 137, Srinagar 27, Kulgam 154, Shopian and Pulwama 108 ( GK, November 20, 2017).
It is nine months since chief minister made the announcement. Nine months wait? For a chief executive’s promise to fulfil. In that gestation period, apart from countless sterile new born, many stunning things like demonetization, GST and ‘surgical strikes’ happened. Strapping a civilian to army’s jeep, Farooq Abdullah’s asking his party to join Hurriyat, braid chopping and other things scripted their own order. Perhaps our chief minister remained too busy to salvage a moment or two to translate her words into action. But then she is the chief minister of the state with ‘unique’ identity. Where to run away with the commitments and digging into new warrens of deception evokes not reprimand but ear-plugging on part of gods she owes her allegiance to.
To protect the life, honor and dignity of people is the basic and constitutional duty of the state government Mehbooba heads. Giving compensation or making announcement in this regard to victims of pellet, bullet, tear gas and other types of state atrocities is confession of guilt on part of government. It is confession of disproportionate use of force. It is a confession that civilian, unarmed, were killed, injured, pellet-perforated and maimed for life. So the compensation, a sort of atonement for the excesses committed by the security apparatus. But alas, that too is not given when the victims need it most. Witness its callousness, the SHRC has to crack the whip to awaken the government from the stupor. And still it is in yawning phase.
Every part of our body is matchless but eyes enable mankind to see the marvel of creation in him and around. They say between the one-shot-kill and courting eternal darkness, they choose the latter to ‘protect’ Insanyat (humanity). But the mournful cries emanating from this blazing hell would make them crave just the opposite: Kill me but don’t rob me of standing witness to hand of terror. Cut my limbs but leave me to amass the pearl of tears of my mother. What I said is not passion rousing but to prick the conscience of the insensitive government towards the miserable plight of those who sustained life-crippling injuries during the protests last year.
Against this inertia that has gripped the Mehbooba-led administration, Sri Lankan author, Anuk Ardupragasam’s donating a part of the prize money (25,000 dollar DSC Prize for South Asian Literature 2017) for ‘violence victims’ of Kashmir– apart from contributing for Rohingya Muslims and North East Srilankans– is indeed a noble gesture, we admire and owe a gratitude to. But in that is a mirror for all of us to hold. The primary responsibility in assisting such hapless people and not make them a burden on their families, majority of which are poor, lies on government. But what we as a society are doing. We too have certain awardees. There is that giant Auqaf Trust, a chain of other huge wealth and assets accumulating bodies and hundreds of other groups. But nothing meaningful and concrete has been done in rehabilitating the broken souls and their shattered families. While in Anuk’s humanness there is much to shame the state dispensation, it reminds us of the real sense of belonging beyond the customary four day Chelum. As a society we have failed to carve out an integrated and comprehensive system for rehabilitation of pellet victims. Some individual efforts for owning a few victims or providing them some financial assistance is no answer to the ‘epidemic of dead eyes’. An institutionalized effort rather campaign is long overdue.