Srinagar: “I’m in pain but not thinking anything,” mumbles Shaista Hamid Malla, a 19-year-old girl with the bandaged left-eye. On Wednesday afternoon, she was on the porch of her home in Kawoosa village of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, overhearing clashes between civilians and the government forces.
Earlier in the day, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) had shot dead a civilian, who resided in the village, after he allegedly “jumped checkpoint” in Narbal, Shopian. His killing had led hundreds of boys from the village to throw stones at the government forces, which was retaliated by teargas shelling and metal-pellets.
“They [government forces] were running after the boys and firing pellets and I was inside my home,” recounts Malla, currently admitted at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital, Srinagar. “I didn’t step outside but a pellet hit me when I was on the porch with my family.”
Her friend, Shaista Rashid Ganaie, who shares the name and age with Malla, was there too. “I saw when pellets hit her,” she says. “Her eye and face was bleeding and kept on saying, ‘I can’t see, I can’t see.”
While Malla’s 40-year-old mother poured water over her face, one of the family members called for an ambulance. But the mother didn’t accompany Malla to the hospital. “She is a heart patient and is very worried about her [Shaista Malla],” says Ganaie. “Her father stayed with her mother at home.”
From July 2016 to February 2019, metal pellets—which the Ministry of Home Affairs calls “non-lethal”—have killed at least eighteen people, blinded 139, injured 2,942, and caused eye injuries to 1,459.
A first-year student at Government Degree College, Magam, Malla is the eldest sibling among three. “I just want to complete the graduation,” she mumbles. She will be operated upon tomorrow morning.