Trauma, memory loss, anxiety: Inside the ‘dark world’ of pellet victims

Despite a few surgeries, Shabroza couldn’t regain her eyesight due to severe damage caused to her cornea by the ‘deadly’ pellets.

Abid Bashir
Srinagar, Publish Date: Sep 13 2017 11:14PM | Updated Date: Sep 13 2017 11:14PM
Trauma, memory loss, anxiety: Inside the ‘dark world’ of pellet victimsPhoto: Habib Naqash/GK

For them, the world is dark. It’s been almost a year since they lost their vision to deadly pellets fired ‘indiscriminately’ by government forces during the 2016 uprising in Kashmir. 

Aged between nine to 20 years, the pellet victims are in the midst of a dangerous conundrum: fast losing their memory due to psychological trauma they have gone through in the past more than a year.

The victims, including girls, have remained confined to the four walls of their homes since the pellets snatched their eyesight. They say they only leave their homes when they are supposed to see a doctor with the sole hope of regaining their vision, somehow.

“I was inside my house when government forces fired pellets at me last year. They should have killed me there. I am not able to see properly and have become fully dependent on others,” said Shabroza Mir, 18, a resident of Rohmo village in Pulwama district. “I was preparing for my class 10 exams when the forces barged into our house and fired a volley of pellets. My world turned dark for me there and then.”

Despite a few surgeries, Shabroza couldn’t regain her eyesight due to severe damage caused to her cornea by the ‘deadly’ pellets. 

Speaking at the launch of a report on pellet shotguns released by the Amnesty International here, Shabroza said that she can’t even cry as it pains her eyes. “I wanted to pursue my studies, but pellets snatched my world. What has added to my pain is that I am facing memory a loss now. I hardly remember things. Such is the level of trauma that I even forget to take my medicines.”

She boldly said that the depression she is facing is due to the worry of losing her vision.

Joining her on the dais was Manzoor Ahmed whose right eye has been declared “dead” by the doctors.

“Being elder in my family, I would go to a local bakery shop and earn my livelihood there. On that fateful day, last year, the government forces barged into our home and smashed windowpanes. When the forces tried to misbehave with female members in my family, we protested. In return, I received a full cartridge of pellets on my face,” Ahmed said.

In his early ‘20s, Manzoor said that he fell unconscious a kilometer away from his house after being chased by the forces. “I have only one job: to think, think and think about my lost vision. My life is hell now. No operation has worked and no medicine is working. Life is very tough for us,” he said.

The visibly-upset Manzoor said that they are being only called by some NGOs for photo-shoots and interviews. “This is our life now: to narrate what has happened to us,” he said.

Danish Rajab Jhat, a pellet victim from Rainawari area of Downtown Srinagar, said that even tears have dried up in his eyes.

Danish received a full burst of pellets during clashes between protestors and government forces last year. “I was operated upon thrice, but to no avail. I have become completely dependent. Everything in front of me is dark, rather completely dark. I can’t see. My both eyes were hit by pellets. Nothing is working for me,” said the 24-year-old youth, as he protects his eyes from the direct sunlight with his hands.

Senior Campaigner at the Amnesty International India, Zahoor Wani said that in some cases, those injured by pellet firing still have the metal pellets in their skulls or near their eyes. “Doctors are afraid to remove the pellets fearing that it will affect their eyesight, but they are not sure what long-term effects it would have,” he said.

He said that people injured by pellets have faced serious physical and mental health issues, including symptoms of psychological trauma.

“School and university students hit in the eyes told us that they continue to have learning difficulties. Several victims who were the primary breadwinners for their families fear they will not be able to work any longer,” Wani said. “Many have not regained their eyesight despite repeated surgeries.”