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As death toll rises in Kashmir, reports of security forces attacking hospitals, ambulances

By Amit Kumar and Raqib Hameed Naik, Twocircles.net

Srinagar: Roll back to the summer of 2010. Six years ago, the Kashmir Valley witnessed the death of 120 innocents at the hands of security forces. At that time, Omar Abdullah was the Chief Minster of Jammu and Kashmir, and Mehbooba Mufti was in opposition. Like any other opposition leader, she did her best to gain maximum political mileage out of the situation and acted like if she came to power, no innocent’s blood would ever be spilled on the streets of Kashmir.

Yet, as we write this report, 25 civilians have been killed at the hands of security forces, while some say the figure has risen to 30. Some died in police firing, others succumbed to injuries in hospitals, while some died because according to locals the police denied timely treatment to injured people and even attacked ambulances. Mobile internet remained shut in the entire region while in South Kashmir communication lines remain completely shut.

The valley, post the death of Hizbul member Burhan Wani, has been on the edge; yet according to Rajnath Singh, Home Minister, the situation is under control, and more importantly, the Amarnath Yatra has been resumed. Meanwhile, the government of Mehbooba Mufti has asked people to show restraint and not come out on streets. If this does not explain the concerns and priorities of the Central and the state government, nothing does. This, even as the Valley remains in complete lockdown and now faces a medical emergency. Patients are pouring in from all over the Valley to the Shri Hari Singh Medical Hospital in Srinagar. According to Gausiya, a 27-year-old resident of Natipora, Srinagar, for the past three days they have been unable to get out f their homes. “Every morning we are informed by the forces to stay indoors and that action will be taken against us if we step outside. We are running low on ration and there is nothing we can do about it,” she said.

But the gruesome reality does not end here.

The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said it was concerned about this policy of attacking the ambulances and the hospital. “These raids and assaults on the ambulances and inside the hospitals is not the first time. People in Kashmir have witnessed the same in 2008, 2009 and 2010 civil uprisings. Attacking hospitals and ambulances is a crime under the International Humanitarian Law and Indian armed forces have been repeatedly accused of this crime in Kashmir. There is absolute lawlessness and impunity enjoyed by the Indian armed forces and this must be condemned by the people of conscience in India and internationally,” they added.

Amongst more than 100 patients who were brought to SMHS Hospital, Srinagar a total 55 patients were admitted on 9 July till 9 p.m. Out of 55 patients, four are women, amongst whom three have bullet injuries in their abdomens and all of them are from Bijbehara. From the list of 55 patients two patients have died in the hospital, while as three are said to be still in critical condition, the JKCSS said.

Out of 55 patients who were admitted in the SMHS hospital, 16 have bullet injuries, while as two people have injuries due to torture by soldiers and 37 people were injured due to pellets. From the 37 persons injured due to pellets, 19 have severe eye injuries as well, which according to doctors may result in permanent visual impairment. About five patients at least have bullet or pellet injuries on their back side, which clearly means that despite trying to flee away they were attacked by the armed forces. From the available records, it appears at least 40 out of these 55 patients have above waistline injuries. Around 18 patients out of 55 admitted yesterday at SMHS Hospital are below the age of 18 years.

What is even more disturbing, but not surprising, is that the security forces have not even spared the main hospital in Srinagar. According to a report by Valley-based Kashmir Reader, Resident Doctors Association (RDA) of the SMHS and Associated Hospitals said the government forces fired teargas inside SMHS emergency and harassed the staff.

Dr Aadil Ashraf, president RDA, said four patients suffering from chronic lung disease were being managed in the emergency unit when tear gas shelling wreaked havoc.

“The shelling caused severe suffocation of those poor patients. This is in gross violation of international laws,” Dr Ashraf told the Kashmir reader. The world’s largest democracy has been accused of violation of international laws, and not by separatist leaders but by the staff of a government hospital. Dozens have been left blinded forever by pellets shot by security forces, yet we are being made to believe that all these measures are being taken to save democracy in the region.

According to a police official who wished to remain anonymous, the CRPF has been using excessive forces and as a result the Jammu Kashmir Police is earning a bad reputation.”I witnessed how CRPF Jawans forced people to come out of ambulances and beat them too,” he told Twocircles.net.
In November 2015, following the death of Gowher Ahmed Dar, Twocircles.net had done a story called ‘In Kashmir’s Blood Politics, the innocent is always the loser’.
Eight months later, nothing has changed.