Doctors operate on child who became emblem of India’s use of pellet guns in Kashmir
SRINAGAR: Doctors have removed a metal shard from the eye of a toddler shot in India Occupied Kashmir, whose horrific injuries became symbolic of India’s devastating use of pellet-firing shotguns in the valley.
Surgeons who operated on Hiba Jan said it was too early to know if the 20-month-old girl would ever use her eye again after being shot with a pump-action gun that discharges high-velocity fragments.
The girl’s parents said they were shot at while trying to escape from clouds of tear gas during clashes between Indian forces and villagers in late November.
Her maiming underscored the contentious use of pellet shotguns against civilians in Kashmir.
“We have removed the pellet, but her eye was devastated,” said one of the surgeons who operated on Hiba at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar on Wednesday.
“It is difficult to say (if surgery was successful) in the case of an infant, who cannot take a vision test or describe what can be perceived by the damaged eye,” said the doctor, who was not permitted to speak to the press and requested anonymity.
Hiba’s father Nisar Ahmad, seated by his daughter’s hospital bed, told AFP she was calm following her second surgery.
India introduced the officially “non-lethal” 12-gauge pellet shotgun in Kashmir in 2010 in the wake major anti-India protests in the valley which demands freedom from Indian rule.
The Indian government data from 2017 revealed the weapon was used to martyr 13 Kashmiris and injure more than 6,000 in eight months alone — including nearly 800 with eye injuries.
“We deal with such devastation every day at the hospital. Hiba is no different,” her surgeon said.
Amnesty International has urged the Indian government to ban the use of pellet guns, and lawyers and other rights groups have appealed to courts, to little avail so far.
US-based Physicians for Human Rights has called their use “inherently inaccurate (and) indiscriminate”, and potentially “lethal to humans at close range”.
According to Amnesty International, Israel, Egypt and Venezuela have also used the pump action gun for crowd control but rarely against unarmed protestors.
Egyptian activist Shaimaa al-Sabbagh died after he was hit with pellets in Tahrir Square in 2015. His death led one police officer being sentenced to 15 years in prison.
But there have been no prosecutions of any Indian forces personnel.