Two pellet victims, despite their own miseries, refused to be blind to the sufferings of other pellet-hit people. Dyuti Khulbe sends a detailed report on how they did it.
Sitting carefully on a black chair covering his eyes with black goggles, Mohammad Ashraf Wani narrates the incident that changed the course of his life. “I can never forget the date,” he says. “It was 24th August 2016 when I was hit by pellets on my face and back.”
Wani was one of those thousands of pellet victims whose life turned into fatality after a close brush up with death.
“The forces came into my village in Pulwama and started damaging the public and private property. Till this day, I am unsure why they showed up as there wasn’t even a protest to shut it down,” he Mohammad as he relives the horrors of the day that turned his life upside down.
For 16 days, he was kept in emergency ward where he underwent Pneumotherapy. He got his eyes operated which only left him with partial eyesight.
A total of 635 pellets are still inside Wani’s body, reminding him of his growing weaknesses and struggles.
“It has become impossible for me to sit under the sun for even 10 minutes as these metal pellets start heating up inside,” he says while a woman sitting in the corner of the room sobs silently.
Like many other youngsters, Wani, who lives with his three sisters and mother, too wanted to be able to sustain his family.
“Earlier my family was dependant on me but now I am the one who has to depend on them,” he says expressing deep regret.
Like Wani’s story is the story of Altaf Seh. He too lost his eyesight partially and his will to live after being hit by pellets.
“Sometimes I feel we are nothing but walking dead,” he says re-adjusting his photo-chromic glasses with an exasperation that ceases to stay repressed. “I call them all murderers. Nobody will file a case against them but they all are murderers. They have murdered our dreams, hopes and emotions.”
Twenty-six-year-old Altaf was the sole breadwinner of the family when he was hit by 25 pellets on his face on 21st August 2016.
“We have an apple orchard in Shopian. I am unable to work there as the sun starts to eat up my body,” he says.
Altaf’s adversities are now added on by his financial difficulties as he has to support the education of his two children.
In March 2017, Mohammad Ashraf Wani and Altaf Seh met each other at SMHS hospital along with other pellet victims when they all were undergoing treatment. When they saw each other’s sufferings, the idea of establishing a trust for pellet victims struck them. And they found a new meaning to their disheveled lives.
“There was a time when we all were living for ourselves but later that will also die, however, now we wilfully live for others,” say Wani and Altaf with smiles that put light on their latent hopes.
Jammu and Kashmir Pellet Victims Welfare Trust (JKPVWT) was established on 25th August 2017 with all its members being victims of pellet.
“Our trust keeps a check on pellet victims on a weekly basis. We try to provide them with medical, financial and moral support,” says Mohammad Ashraf Wani, President JKPVWT.
JKPVWT has volunteered in 10 districts of Kashmir who keep the record of pellet victims’ well-being, their treatment and education.
They collect money from Masjids or receive random donations.
“We don’t get help from political parties, leaders or NGOs. Our funds majorly rely on collections from Masjids every Friday,” Ashraf says.
There have been incidents in the past when some organisation asked the pellet victims for their photo identity cards and passport size photographs.
The organisation claimed to raise funds for them on their behalf, however, they vanished into the thin air along with their false promises and money.
On 18th August 2018, the members of the trust staged a silent protest against the use of pellet guns. The trust also demands the withdrawal of false accusation against the pellet victims for being anti-nationals.
“The government forces recently attacked a man, who did not have hands, with pellets. They also accused him of stone pelting. How can a man who doesn’t have hands throw stones at them? They accuse us of hiding their own misdeeds,” the members say.
Together, the members of the trust have decided to embark on a journey that is filled with successes and failures.
The determination to move forward makes them more courageous than ever.