A 19-month-old Heeba Nisar residents of Kapran village in South Kashmir’s Shopian district, some 62 kms south of Srinagar, became the youngest pellet gun survivor after she sustained pellet gun injuries in a protest.
The incident was occurred on Sunday when Heeba was playing in her home with her elder brother. Meanwhile security forces were engaged in a fierce encounter with the militants—kept them awake all through the night. Soon after the cracking of dawn, as the news about the gun fight broke, the local residents and the young men from the adjoining areas rushed to the spot of gun battle. They started pelting the forces with stones and bricks to hamper the operation. The forces, who had ring-fenced the entire Kapran-Batgund area, retaliated with pellets, smoke shells and even bullets.
As a result of protest, six rebels were gunned down and one soldier and one civilian lost their lives. More than 50 people were injured. A pellet had hit Heeba’s eye and gone deep inside, causing injury to parts critical for vision. “I was preparing breakfast when I started coughing furiously. Greyish smoke from the tear gas shells had entered the house. Every passing minute made the air more unbreathable,” said her mother, who was alone in the house with her two children. “Heeba started vomiting and my five-year-old son was struggling to breathe.”
As the condition of her children worsened, Ms Jan took Heeba in her arms, held the hand of her son, Shahdat, and ran outside, only to find herself trapped in the middle of the chaos. “I saw forces firing towards us, so I pulled my son behind me and covered Heeba’s face with my hand,” Ms Jan told the BBC. Three pellets fired by a soldier in her direction hit Ms Jan’s hand but one still perforated Heeba’s right eye. “Muma, tout [mother, it’s burning],” Heeba screamed, blood oozing out of her eye. Ms Jan then passed out. She only regained consciousness while travelling in an ambulance from her village to a hospital in the state capital Srinagar and saw her neighbours surrounding her.
“As soon as pellet hit the child, her eye turned puffy and she began crying in excruciating pain,” said her mother, adding, “We immediately rushed her to district hospital Kulgam from where she was referred to SMHS, Srinagar, given the severity of her injuries.” When Heeba Jan returned from hospital to her home curious neighbours, had gathered to see the “youngest victim”, “What has happened to you, my doll,” Amina Rather, a neighbour said to Heeba, as she planted a kiss on her red cheeks. “Leave me,” Heeba cried, trying to rub her injured right eye with her small hands. Her mother, Marsala Jan, pushed her hands away.
Doctors say Heeba will need many operations. “We can only assess her damaged eye after a second surgery,” Saleem Tak, the head of the ophthalmology department of the hospital that treated Heeba, told the BBC. There is a chance that she may lose most of the vision in that eye.
Images of the injuries caused to the 19-month-old girl have renewed public anger in the Muslim-majority region, which has seen violence since the late 1980s when separatists began waging a violent campaign against Indian rule.
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17 November, 2019