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19-month old girl hit by pellets in Kashmir; may lose her right eye forever

19 month old baby Hiba (Photo: Auqib Javeed/TwoCircles.net)

By Auqib Javeed, TwoCircles.net

Srinagar: Over the past 24 hours, most Indian media houses have carried the story of six militants and one Army soldier killed during an encounter Kashmir’s Shopian District. However, as is often the case, non-combatants and the civilian population also ended up paying a heavy price during the encounter. Over 20 people were injured when security forces fired tear gas shells and pellets at protesters, but the youngest victim–Hiba–is only 19 months old and there is a high chance that she may never be able to see from her right eye again.

In ward number 8 of Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS), Srinagar, Masarat Jan is trying to ease the pain of her child, Heba Jan, after a pellet left a “hole right in the middle of her eyeball”.

In a conversation with TwoCircles.net, Hiba’s mother Masrat Jan says that on Sunday, she had to open the door of her house to save Hiba and her 5-year-old brother from tear smoke coming from the encounter site. “We were sitting inside our house. However, the intense tear smoke forced us to leave the house. As soon I opened the door of my house forces fired pellets on us. I pushed my son to one side and covered my daughter’s face with my hand,” said Masrat Jan.

masarat with her daughter Hiba ( Photo: Auqib Javeed/ TwoCircles.net)

Showing her right hand dotted with pellets, Masrat says if she had not placed her hand on her daughter’s face, the pellets would have damaged both her eyes and the injuries could have been more ‘grievous’.

The ophthalmology ward of SMHS hospital is overwhelmed with patients, most of them with bloody eyes. At least 20 people were injured on Sunday clashes between government forces and protesters.

“We are poor…we don’t have enough money to buy medicines. For God’s sake, tell me where should I go with my daughter?” says Masrat whose husband Nisar Ahmad is a labour by profession.

“She was hit by pellets even when she was inside her home. She might lose her eyesight also. What was her crime? And you know what, nobody will ever be held accountable because you are living in a place where forces have been given a free licence to kill and blind people,” said Hiba’s uncle.

“We were brought to the hospital by her neighbours because I fell unconscious after seeing blood oozing from her eye,” says Masrat. According to doctors Hiba has been operated once to stop the bleeding from the eye and will be operated again.

“We can’t say anything this time about her eyesight, let’s wait for at least 6 days, we have to operate multiple times to see the results,” said Medical Superintendent of SMHS hospital, Dr Saleem Tak.

Baby Hiba ( Photo: Auqib Javeed/ TwoCircles.net)

He added that her eye is like a balloon and that if it is punctured, it will be very tough for her to regain eyesight. “Let us hope we are able to correct the devastation caused by the pellet in her eye,” he added.

Pellet guns were first used in 2010 when protests engulfed Kashmir. The then National Conference (NC) government led by Omar Abdullah allowed pellet guns to be used for controlling protesters.

On Jan 2 of this year, the Jammu and Kashmir state government admitted in the state legislative assembly that 6,221 persons received pellet gun injuries, including 782 eye injuries, between July 2016 and February 2017.