Conflict

An overworked war hospital: The blood and anger at SMHS

Srinagar: On Sunday, Kashmir woke up to the news of seven armed militants being killed in a gunbattle, in the southern apple-town of Shopian. This, as two more gun-battles were raging in another village of Shopian.

By evening, the killed included 13 militants in three different gunfights in Shopian. Three armed personnel were also killed during the gunfights.

In the clashes that erupted as the news spread, three civilians lost their lives when the armed forces opened fire on the protesters. Over 200 odd people were injured as the armed forces fired live bullets, pellets, and tear smoke shells indiscriminately into the protesting crowds.

In the absence of secondary and tertiary health care facilities in Kashmir’s towns, many of the injured, those hit with bullets and pellets, have been referred to Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital. SMHS or Headwin Hospital has in such times of crisis worked as a war hospital, with overworked doctors and paramedical staff working along with volunteers and a long line of blood donors ready to give their blood ‘for the cause’.

Inside the hospital, which carries a tense air, ambulances after ambulances arrive with patients from the South. Many of the drivers allege that the forces stopped them, while bleeding patients wasted precious minutes.

The anger and hostility of the people can sensed as soon as one enters the hospital.

Apart from the alertness among the staff, and anger among the gathered people, the air in the hospital mixed with tear gas being fired in the adjacent localities, makes it more uncomfortable.

A woman, in her late 70s coughs uncontrollably as two young men with bullet injuries, lying in the surgical ward surrounded by their families lie motionless.

Yasir, 22, had stepped out of his house when the armed forces started firing. He has sustained injuries in his right shoulder. “He has been given pain-killers for now because it was unbearable, but we are still waiting for the doctors,” informs Yasir’s father.

Lying a few beds away, Arshid, 20, had gone out in rage, to join the protest in Shopian, against the militant killings. He was shot in his right thigh. “The bullet hit me out of nowhere. I had no idea what happened to me after that, and woke up here.”

“He went for the protest. We break army cordons,” informs another young boy from Shopian who does not want to be named. “We will file a medico-legal complaint,” he says with certainty.

Both of them prefered to take rest, and answer ‘other questions later’. The atmosphere around, in such situations, is not very open to questions, for the fear of police in civil clothes gathering information, only to book them later under the Public Safety Act.

Abdul Majeed Wani, a resident of Gopalpura, Shopian and father of 14-year-old Muneem Wani, who lies in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is in tears. “He had his morning tea around nine or nine-thirty,” recalls Wani. “I went to the market for some work after having tea with him. It was around 11:30 when the mayhem started. When I came back home, I got to know that he had gone to play with his friends. But I was sure that he was not in harm’s way.”

“Around 12 pm, I got a call that my boy was shot and was taken to the hospital. I honestly thought it was a joke. I was so sure that he will come back when his game will be over. I cannot believe how wrong I was,” says Abdul Wani, a labourer by profession, as Muneem’s friend from Shopian, arrives. Wani hurriedly goes on to hug him.

“It was my fault. I called Muneem at my place to play with me and he got shot on the way, near my house.”

Wani says that he hurried to Kulgam Hospital thinking that Muneem would have been admitted there, but got to know that his condition was such that he was brought to SMHS. The family reached Srinagar as soon as possible, which in such times, is as difficult as figuring out routes through a maze, of police cordons, boys protesting the death of militants, or their friends. With even ambulances not being given passage, the family arrived in SMHS to the sight of their son, lying immobile. Muneem had already been operated upon by then.

“I saw a smiling boy leaving to play with his friends and the next time I see him, he is incubated with no knowledge of his surroundings. Muneem never went to any protest. Never. He used to tell me that he will study a lot and become a successful man. I am the only earning member of my family. I have a meagre income but I have big dreams for my children. I know Muneem will study and do well for himself and his family,” Wani says, before going to the pharmacy with a prescription in his hand to purchase the items required for the treatment.

Ward 8 of ophthalmology is very ironically ‘eye opening’. Young men with pellet injuries in the eye are admitted here. The area is the most crowded, with close to thirty young boys lying with their faces bandaged.

Till late evening, the inflow of patients kept increasing, as doctors and paramedics responded with equal, if not more, urgency. Patients, mostly young, who sustained bullet and pellet injuries, kept being transported through the hall with a trail of blood.

“More injured arrived a few minutes ago, seven precisely. One of them sustained bullet injuries,” informs the receptionist at 7:45 PM. “I can’t say everything right now, there is CID policeman right behind me, noticing everything,” says the receptionist before going back to his duty.

 

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