The rate of eye injuries was unprecedented. Medics have warned that many could lose their eyesight from shotgun injuries since protesters are being targeted above the waist, often in the eyes.
As the death toll in Kashmir went up to over 40 on Thursday, ambulances continued to deliver more victims to Srinagar’s Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS) where patients were even forced to share beds.
Wards were crammed with young boys and men, many of whom had suffered serious eye injuries caused by the firing of pellets by Indian troops.
“Doctors are working in operating theatres round-the-clock. We’ve operated on 90 for serious eye injuries since Saturday morning,” said a doctor in SMHS on Tuesday.
“Most of them have lost their eyesight in one eye. They are going to walk out of the hospital as one-eyed boys,” the doctor added.
A young said he was injured when Indian troops opened fire towards him and his friends with pellet guns as they walked out of a mosque on Friday.
“I can’t see anything right now,” the boy said, as he wiped away tears that were dripping out of the sides of his bandaged eyes.
Hospital accounts suggest that most of the wounded are young men and many children also were being operated on.
— najeeb mubarki (@najeebmubarki) July 12, 2016
Indian police and paramilitary forces have been using pellet guns to suppress protests and riots.
These weapons are intended to be “non-lethal.” Each pellet cartridge contains 500 tiny iron balls. Few die after being shot by them, but many are maimed. But being blinded, of course, has severe consequences for the victim and their family.
— The Caravan (@thecaravanindia) July 13, 2016
Healing from shot wounds on the arm or anywhere else on the body might be easier. But, someone whose eyes are hit by pellets may never be able to see again. In the latest tensions, the youngest victim was a four-year-old girl.
Health-care providers in Kashmir haven’t been spared violence, either. On Sunday and Monday, security forces reportedly fired tear-gas shells inside the SMHS hospital. Local newspapers reported that at least 25 ambulances carrying injured protesters were also attacked by security forces between Saturday and Monday.