How pellets in Kashmir’s Pulwama killed the career and source of income of two friends

Zahoor Ahmed Dar

By Raqib Hameed Naik,

Rahmoo, Pulwama: Travelling across several villages in Pulwama district in South Kashmir and interacting with local villagers makes one thing clear: when it comes to use of excessive force to curb protests, the PDP government is no different from its predecessor, the National Conference.

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Zahoor Ahmed Dar, 19, a senior secondary student from Rahmoo village in Pulwama district in south Kashmir, had high hopes with Mehbooba Mufti when she swore as the chief minister of the state, believing she would curb the menace of excessive and abusive use of force.

Zahoor Ahmed Dar

Six months the same youth along with his friends, became another addition to the thousands of victims of pellet guns.

On 31st October, 2016 when the Valley erupted following the encounter of Burhan wani, Zahoor was having a normal day at home helping his father count the bricks to be used in construction of their house.

A contingent of army’s Rashtriya Rifles was passing through the area, which clashed with the local youths leading  to full scale escalation and protests. As the norm goes in the valley, a huge contingent of CRPF, J&K Police along with ‘notorious’ Special Operation group (SOG) had arrived, leading to stone pelting in the area.

“The army men were beating the people. They broke the window panes of our mosques. Tell me who can tolerate this blasphemy. People couldn’t tolerate this and they pelted stones on the army men, who called forces for the backup,” recalls Zahoor.

The stone pelting was going on in the main market where Zahoor lived with his parents and three siblings. As the protests intensified, he peeped out of the gate to see what was going outside. It proved to be a huge mistake, as a volley of pellets hit his chest and face.

He was rushed to the district hospital Pulwama and then to SMHS hospital in Srinagar, where he regained conscious only to feel blood on his chest and face. Close to six surgeries were performed on him and doctors were able to restore some of the vision in his right eye, but his left eye is still without any vision.

Manzoor Ahmed

“It was a terrifying experience. It is only the pellet victims who know how hard it is to live with metal pierced in their vital organs of the body,” says Zahoor.

His father, Mohammad Sultan Dar, 50 a farmer, wanted his son Zahoor to get good education and excel in his life. He had saved his life earnings for his education but after hit by pellets he spent all money on his treatment.

“I had to take debt for his treatment. The pellets not only affect a single person who is hit by it, but the whole family. Now he can’t live the way, he wanted to be,” says Sultan.

Four months after he was hit by pellets, Zahoor has been restricted to staying within the house as he can only see a little with his left eye, and that too has only 20% vision.

Interested in political science, Zahoor had always read in his books that there is right to protest which people can use peacefully. But he feels that  these notions are only limited to books and no application in real world- at least in Kashmir.

“I don’t feel anything now. All my dreams have been killed. I didn’t even appear in my class 12 examination,” he says. “My parents give me strength to cope up with my life after hit by pellets,” he adds.

Zahoor was not the only one whose life was destroyed that day. Manzoor Ahmed, 22 a baker who was running a shop near his house was also hit by the pellets when he was running for cover from the pellets and tear gas, which were raining over the village.

“I was in my shop and saw protests intensifying. I came outside and downed my shutter. As I was about to put a lock on it, I saw a policeman aim his pellet gun at me and pumping a whole cartridge of pellets on me,” recollects Manzoor.

He was also hit above the chest like his friend Zahoor. As of now, he has been operated for two surgeries in his eyes. This month he is supposed to go for another surgery.

“I have been bedridden since five months. I can’t work. My shop is closed since last five months. I was lone bread earner for the family. Who will earn for us now?” he asks.

After being hit by pellets, his younger brother Sheraz who is studying in 9th standard has left his studies and he now works as a labourer to support the family.

As the Valley limps back to ‘normalcy’, Zahoor and Manzoor are trying to come out of the trauma which they had to suffer after hit by pellets. Every fortnight, both commute to Srinagar-based SMHS hospital for eye checkup.

“Our lives are now limited to commuting between Rahmoo and Srinagar and rest all seems dark to us,” they say pessimistically.