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Srinagar: Amid the crowd, outside Ward 10, at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar, a father is wailing. It has been hours since he and his family have been waiting for any news about their son.
His 16 year old son Zahid, is not sick. However, he is fighting the battle of life and death in SMHS hospital.
On Friday, he was fired upon by a pellet gun, available only to the armed forces, from a point-blank range. Even the plastic casing of the metal pellets had penetrated into his young body, rupturing his skin as the hundreds of metal pellets had gone berserk inside of him.
This powerful impact destroyed multiple organs of 16-year-old Zahid Ahmad Mir, sweetheart of this emotionally broken and financially unstable family. His kidney, appendix and gallbladder have been removed. The doctors say that his condition is ‘stable’, a state that his family fears, he may not be able to ever achieve now. According to the family, the days were stressful for Zahid, a class 11th student. He was preparing for his exams.
On November 24, Zahid was coming back from M.P School located in Babdem area of the city after giving the test of ‘Economics and Entrepreneurship’. While Zahid was writing his exam, the routine Friday protests had begun in the downtown area’s Nawakadal Chowk. As the incidents of stone pelting started to take place, Zahid, a resident of Zinmar, Tengpora, on his way back had to cross the area.
In the chaos, Zahid had tried to run like many others. But he was shot with a pellet gun that is used by the forces to counter the stone pelting protesters, the announcement of amnesty for ‘first time stone pelters’ was announced by New Delhi and subsequently attested by the Mehbooba Mufti led PDP-BJP government in the state.
The pellet guns are popular for hunting and are banned in many parts of the world. Termed as a non lethal weapon of crowd control, the metal pellets inside a plastic cartridge when fired can penetrate soft tissues. One cartridge of a pellet gun contains few hundred metal pellets containing Lead.
Sharp or shaped like ball bearings, depending on the type, the pellets when fired, disperse hundreds of pellets over a few hundred metres. In Kashmir, they are used by the Jammu & Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). These guns were first introduced in August 2010. The CRPF has 600 such guns.
Other weapons used on civilian protesters include the tear gas canisters and pepper gas in addition to live bullets.
In 2010 another teenager the namesake of Zahid, was hit in the head by a tear gas canister shot by the armed forces, rupturing his skull killing him on the spot and leading to large scale agitation.
The saviours on the scooty
The black coloured plastic casing of the pellet was inside his skin, visible from the outside. As per experts, the cover usually falls on the ground after pellets are fired. ‘The fact that it was inside his body points to a possibility that he was intentionally hit at a point blank range.’
What had followed next were deserted roads with no one but the police standing. Two boys (name withheld) crossing the area on their two-wheeler Scooty, heard a voice of a woman wailing.
According to the boys, on moving closer, they saw Zahid lying on the road ‘exactly near the Nawakadal Chowk where a traffic light is installed’, drenched in blood.
Narrating the incident, the boys who had come to see Zahid at the hospital again said, “We both are patients here at the hospital. We had left the SMHS hospital and were going home. On our way back, we saw him. He was in a pool of blood. We got off our Scooty and picked him up. A wailing woman was there apart from the police.”
The boys had picked him up and managed to make him sit in the middle on their Scooty.
“We made him sit in the middle. He was unconscious and kept falling. We couldn’t understand whatever he was trying to utter in that state. We took him to the hospital as fast as we could. We felt like we would fall, a couple of times. We had tears in our eyes looking at his condition. Our vision was mostly blurred because of that,” they said.
While the doctors were busy treating him and getting his tests done, the boys had tried to dial Zahid’s father’s contact number from his phone. He had not answered the call. While being shifted to the operation theatre however, they had managed to note down a contact number that Zahid could recall. They had then called his family.
“I insisted on going with him in the theatre. I asked him whether he could recall any number. He signalled ‘yes’ and blinked his eyes. He wasn’t able to speak then. After sometime I asked him again and he gave us his younger brother Yasir’s number,” said one of the boys.
“He has a big hole in his body. The doctors told us that when we got him here he just had some pints of blood left in his body. Then they got tests done on him, performed scans and later operated upon him,” they said.
What the experts say
According to the Medical Superintendent of SMHS Hospital, Doctor Saleem Tak, Zahid has been operated upon and is ‘stable’ right now.
“He is in the Intensive Care Unit. As far as the number of pellets and other details are concerned, that must be written in the operation notes. We will provide you with the details in about a week,” said Dr. Tak.
Dr. Tak sent the reporter and a colleague to Dr. Syed Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, Professor of Surgery, to collect further details where Dr. Shah outrightly denied sharing the details, asking the reporters to ‘leave his chamber’.
While the Principal of the Government Medical College, Dr. Saima Rashid assured that she will speak to Dr. Shah and will make a call back to them, the reporter is yet to receive a call.
As per the doctors who were willing to talk, but wished to stay anonymous, Zahid had hundreds of pellets inside his abdominal area.
According to a senior doctor, Zahid’s multiple organs have been damaged. Elaborating the procedures Zahid went through during a four-hour surgery, a senior doctor said, “The damage in the multiple organs has destabilized his condition predominantly. We conducted an emergency Laparotomy surgery (a procedure involving a large incision through the abdominal wall to gain access into the abdominal cavity) followed by Nephrectomy (removal of a kidney – the right one), and Cholecystectomy (removal of gallbladder).”
What the family says
As per the family, Zahid gained consciousness at around 4 in the morning on Saturday.
The boys who had saved Zahid had come to see him again. They left the hospital after checking on him. While leaving, one among them said, “Today I am wearing my sister’s Pheran because my own Pheran is drenched in Zahid’s blood. I cannot forget what happened yesterday.”
Holding himself responsible for not being able to protect his child, Zahid’s father, Manzoor Ahmad Mir is in trauma. Zahid’s mother Shameema sat with eyes wide open, gazing into empty space.
As Manzoor, Zahid’s father cried, he told this reporter, “He had studied at CMP School, Khanyar till his 10th standard. We basically belong to Bagh-i-Rasool, Khanyar and had shifter to Zinmar three years back. Now he studies at M.P School Babdem. He was on his way from there to Zinmar.”
Asked if he has filed a report with the police, he said, “I don’t care about that right now. I need my son. I want him to survive. He has never been involved in stone pelting. We are poor people. He would study and work as a carpenter with my brother. I am a labourer. I had kept him busy with studies and work. I had always kept my kids at a distance from all this. I am living a nightmare today,” said Manzoor while chocking and crying uncontrollably in grief.
Meanwhile, the Police Control Room Srinagar denied having any such report on Saturday morning. When contacted by Free Press Kashmir the PCR maintained that such a thing has not happened. However, in the afternoon, the police officials had come to talk to Zahid’s father while he was in the hospital.
“He has a younger sister and a brother. He has been handicapped. No father can tolerate this. He asked me for the bus fare. I gave it to him. It was his second paper. He is a good kid. I just want him to recover. He will continue to study. He will grow into a man. He will earn well. He will have a family…,”
The consoling relatives around continued to say, ‘In Sha Allah’ as Manzoor kept talking about the future he envisions for Zahid.