I am in the dock before a whole generation of our children. Smiles have been snatched from their faces instead hundreds of pellets have been pierced to mesh their cheeks, eyes and heads. Their pellet-riddled swollen innocent faces with lifeless eye sockets looking like eyes of the tarsier send shock waves to nerves and freeze the blood in the veins. The 70-bed ophthalmology ward of the hospital is bursting with patients’ young boys and girls- even toddlers. At least two patients have been put on a bed. So huge is the number of the patients with pellet injuries on their faces, eyes and head that the hospital administration had to evacuate two more adjacent wards for accommodating the patients with eye injuries. The X-rays of over two hundred, out of about two thousand boys and girls fired with pellets above their waist, tell tales of the cold-heartedness that works behind the wicked design of creating a whole brigade of blind youth in Kashmir. Just to send a message to the Kashmir society, ‘that is what we can do to you.’
Ninth class student, Insha Malik a topper from a desolate village Sedow in the lap of deep pine forests in the Shopian District of South Kashmir on the day of our visit to the hospital was lying unconscious in the Surgical ICU in the SHMS hospital one of three main hospitals in Srinagar. The swollen face of the 14- year girl with scores of the pellet wounds looking like craters on the moon distinctly visible on her face drenched in blood spoke about the callosity and animosity of the State forces towards the younger generation of Kashmir. ‘The pellets have ruptured her right eye, and it has bulged out. The left is lacerated. She has been blinded- her eyes have been deprived of even perception of light and all her dreams about rising as a scintillating star from the distant village have been shattered.
She was not a part of youth mourning and protesting the martyrdom of the 21 years Burhan Wani, new iconic resistance leader for a whole generation of the post-1990 born youth. On Tuesday, the sun had set in, and an eerie calm had descended on the Alpine village. There were no protesting crowds on the streets even in the neighbouring villages. “She was having dinner at her home when troops fired pellets inside their house late in the evening. She screamed, fell unconscious and within minutes her face was inflated like a balloon.” Umer Nazir, a 6th class student, from Rajpora, who was operated upon on removal of pellets from has lots vision in both eyes. Those hit by the pellets in the eyes can never again see normally, in the case of “successful operations the eye injury patients would regain “20% or 40% of vision.”
True, for next over almost seven decades the girl will have to lead a hard life and brave many an adverse situation. Nevertheless, she will be a living and walking memorial of atrocities committed by the power that be on the unarmed innocent people of the state. She will not be only a perpetual reminder of the fateful day to her kith and kin and village but a source of strength and inspiration for the generations to come. Even when the people’s struggle for their cherished right reache to its historical conclusion like all struggles in the world from Vietnam to Algeria to South Sudan, men, and woman like Insha Malik will be a perpetual reminder to the generation- next generation of the human rights abuses committed against their people by men in uniform.
In an adjacent ward in the hospital, Insha has companions, the four year old Zuhra Majeed with pellet injuries and an old women brutally beaten by men in uniform in her home testify “acts of the bravado of the world’s “fourth military power with Active Military Personal 13.25 lakh of which more than half are stationed in Jammu and Kashmir.” Looking at faces of the Zuhra Majid, Insha Malik and scores of the youth blindfolded with white bandages and lacerated blood red eyes and scores of others in the General Surgery with bullet wounds above their abdomen I was feeling in a dock- as if all fingers were pointed towards me.
Suffering from an inner guilt as a Kashmiri I was feeling that boys and girls with pellet injuries in their eyes, on their faces and in their chests and those recuperating the bullet injuries were joined by the youth killed in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2016 and were questioning me and blaming me of having perpetually bartered their sacrifices for the pecuniary personal interests. My faces sagged like a weeping willow with shame as they started questioning me.
True, you came out in millions to add halo to our martyrdom, to mourn our death and raise your voice against atrocities committed against humanity. You elated our souls by singing songs like, “You may write me down in history/ With your bitter, twisted lies,/You may trod me in the very dirt/ But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
Nonetheless, you disappointed me and bartered away my martyrdom for small political and personal benefits. For decades, you taught me t0 live like Hussain (AS) and taught me to stand with the truth but in 2002, you charmed my commanders and cadres. And for gaining small temporary political space, you added one more perpetrator and collaborator to the already long list. In 2008, when my blood was yet to coagulate on the roads you betrayed all the pledges you had held out for me and again joined the perpetrators for continuing brutality. Forgetting 2010 you repeated in 2014, what you did in 2002 and 2008.
Think for a moment, did you not give legitimacy to those who killed us for a sport and gouged our eyes sadistic pleasure. Their questions benumbed my heart, and I had no answer.