Casualties of Kashmir’s Unrest Live in the Dark

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A little later, his aunt brought tea and homemade bread, and fed him like a child. He opened his mouth and waited uncertainly for an invisible piece of food in an invisible hand.

Things, useful things — books, tables, chairs, cups — have suddenly become obstacles, and someone’s hand or shoulder is always needed to negotiate hundreds of such obstacles in a journey to the bathroom.

At times, he would endure the need to urinate for up to six hours, he said. “It would kill me to be suddenly so dependent that I couldn’t even piss by myself.”

In the early days of his injury, he would avoid bathing for days. He was uncomfortable being naked around his brother who had to bathe him.

His right eye, which was operated on three times in the first two weeks of his injury, is now completely blinded to light, and he can see a slight glow through the left one. For four days and four nights after the first surgery, he did not sleep a wink. He was awake in darkness and in such pain, as he had never known before.

“The darkness was nothing compared to the pain. We sometimes say the word excruciating, that pain was truly excruciating,” said Mr. Dar. “But maybe I wouldn’t have felt that pain so much if I could see something. Maybe darkness added to the pain.”

The intraocular pressure of his right eye, which for a normal eye ranges from 10- 20, was 50. An ophthalmologist at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (S.M.H.S.) Hospital in Srinagar said it must have been pain from another world. “It is pathological,” he said, “and pellets do that to the eye.”

Mr. Dar’s left eye has a little bump, which Mr. Dar points out for me, just above the iris. “That is the pellet,” he said.

“The pellet is slowly coming out itself; the bump wasn’t there before,” his aunt added. She walked across the room and brought back a small glass bottle from a shelf. A little black ball lay at the bottom of the bottle; it was like the ball bearings in a bicycle wheel, only smaller. “They removed this from his right eye.”

“The doctors in Delhi had no idea what was in his eyes,” she recalled. “ ‘What are they shooting the boys in Kashmir with?’ they kept asking us.”

A pellet cartridge holds around 500 little iron balls in it, a senior police officer said, and when shot, they scatter in the air, hitting anyone in the range. The Jammu Kashmir Police say that the pellet gun is a nonlethal weapon that is very useful in controlling crowds without causing much damage.

According to the ophthalmologist, S.M.H.S. Hospital has already treated more than 300 young men with pellets in their eyes. “And most avoid coming here if they can, because of the spies that police has posted here,” said the doctor, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter. “They keep a check on our registers and see who has pellet injuries, and then the police comes and arrests them.”

Most of the boys with pellets buried in their eyes either go to or are referred to specialty eye hospitals in Amritsar in the northern state of Punjab. Mr. Dar has consulted seven doctors, who have different opinions. One of them has recommended another surgery and remained hopeful that Mr. Dar would recover eyesight.

“My days are like nights,” Mr. Dar said. “Sometimes I simply cry.” He finds strength in the answers he gives himself. “If I become depressed and broken, wouldn’t they, who shot me, succeed? Didn’t they want to make an example out of me and scare the people around me from resisting the oppression?” he explained.

Without this argument, he said, he feared that his voice would have been filled with self-pity, his shoulders would have drooped, his head bent — another victim without agency.

As we got up to leave, Mr. Dar hugged his friend and then shook hands with me and hugged me too, and the strap of my haversack lightly slapped against his face.

“I can see you,” he said. “You are wearing a bag, I can see the strap,” he said, touching it.

“You are wearing a bag too,” he turned to Mr. Yasin. “I can still make out things, you see.”

“No,” Mr. Yasin said. “No bag today.”

“But he is wearing one,” Mr. Dar said, laughing, as he turned toward where I was standing a moment ago.

Zahid Rafiq is a writer based in Srinagar.

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Discussion8 Comments

    • Yeah, absolutely. Learn from the “Land of the Pure”. Why blind people when you can torture them, make them disappear, refuse to come to court and then pretend ignorance and blame the CIA

    • Hello!
      First of all you should write your name first and then comment on the above real story. Have you ever visited Kashmir, I think – No… If you have visited then have you interacted with common Kashmiri… I know your answer is NO.
      Then you don’t know what POTA, AFSPA, SUPPRESSION, HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION, CUSTODY KILLINGS, TARGET KILLINGS, TORTURE etc. etc… is?
      It all happens in Kashmir and is practically done by none other than Indian Army and by the J&K Police and main stream Politicians, the bloody puppets of Indians.
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      so mind your language before commenting regarding Kashmir.

  1. It is well said that “Little Knowledge is a dangerous thing”. My dear, it also applies to all those people who comment on Kashmir Problem without going through the root-causes.
    Actually India wants the ‘Land of Kashmir’ but not Kashmiris, because it is full of resources and has strategic location. Moreover, Kashmiri people didn’t like Indian presence and its policies and are full of hate and anger towards India. That is why Indians are not leaving any stone unturned in making tortures, Killings so on and so forth to Kashmiri people so as to make its (India’s)secure future in Kashmir.

  2. Actually pakistan support the terrorism in kashmir .Train the people in POK for terrorism.The reason is pakistan lost all the war with india now using second method.Pakistan is fully under control of America.

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