SRINAGAR: Sixteen-year-old Hamid Nazir, who lives in Indian Kashmir, may lose his sight after a volley of pellets was fired at him as he crossed paths with a demonstration in Baramulla’s Palhalan district.
On May 21, Nazir was on his way to his tuition class when he came face-to-face with the demonstration and was fired at several times.
Doctors have said that he has suffered severe eye injuries and it would be difficult to salvage his vision.
Nazir was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi by his family in the hope that he doesn’t lose his eyesight completely.
Photographs of the boy’s pellet-ridden face have surfaced on social media and have sparked an outrage across networking sites.
Since the introduction of pellet guns in 2010, figures released by the health department revealed that more than 200 people have had their eyesight damaged by them.
In recent times there have been movements across the valley demanding a ban of pellets.
“Since 2010, the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) has treated at least 50 cases, where the victims have lost their eyesight in either one eye or both after being hit with pellets,” Dr Sajad Khanday, consultant ophthalmologist SMHS, said.
Medical officer Dr Shabana Khan conducted a study which showed that most victims of pellet injuries were young men who have all suffered immense damage to their eyes.
“Most of the victims (nearly 75%) were young boys between 16-26 years of age … They were hit by stones and pellets during demonstrations,” said Dr Khan, who studied 60 cases, all of which occurred within a few months of each other, in 2010.
Pellets from a distance could damage eyesight she warned, saying that “they move with significant velocity. In many cases, pellets get lodged inside the eyes, resulting in severe injuries.”
“It’s worse than death to live a life in complete darkness. All those who lost eyesight are as good as dead,” said a member of a family who has been affected by a pellet gun incident.
Social welfare minister Aasiya Naqash, who visited Nazir in hospital, has called for a ban on the weapon. “I was shocked to see Nazir’s condition. We were always against pellet guns when we were in the Opposition, it should be banned now,” she said.
Naqash’s demand has already been backed by senior PDP-BJP coalition government ministers Naeem Akhtar and Altaf Bukhari.
The police have contended that without these weapons, controlling mobs is very difficult.
“What deterrent do we have then? How can stone throwers be stopped?” questioned Javaid Gilani, inspector general of police, Kashmir.
Several non-lethal weapons including pellet guns, pepper sprays and chili grenades were introduced in the valley in 2010 to help control violent mobs.
This article originally appeared on Hindustan Times
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