Srinagar: Seventeen-year-old Asrar Wani was an aspiring doctor, a class-topper and the ‘Virat Kohli’ of his neighbourhood. But last week, he died at the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Srinagar due to injuries suffered in a shell blast a month ago, according to the death certificate accessed by ThePrint.
Last week, Munir Khan, the additional director general of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, had said Asrar died of “not a shell but stone injury”. But the death certificate states the cause of death as “pellet injury with shell blast injury with severe traumatic brain injury (operated for L decompressive craniectomy)”.
Asked again about the cause of death, ADGP Khan said the medical opinion seems “ambiguous” and will be investigated.
“The initial admission card of Asrar mentions that it was a pellet/blast/shell injury. Now this death/cause of death certificate says it was death caused due to shell blast. One should understand that when a tear gas shell is lobbed, it bursts in the air and releases smoke. It is not a grenade that it will blast on someone’s head or can be targeted or aimed at someone,” Khan said.
“An investigation is being carried out into the death of this boy, and this report also will be looked into. The doctors will be called to clarify and give details of the injuries. There will be a proper questionnaire that will be given to them. Let us not jump to conclusions.”
ThePrint had first reported the case of Asrar on 14 August, based on conversations with attendants and nursing staff at the SKIMS.
Cousin’s eyewitness account
At around 5 pm on 6 August, Asrar was playing cricket at a ground next to his house in Ellahi Bagh near Soura. The ball crossed the boundary and Asrar reached the 90-foot road, where a CRPF convoy was crossing.
Asrar’s cousin Adil, who was playing with him at the time, alleged that since there were around 60-70 boys in the ground — some playing cricket, some busy with a game of carom — the force started making announcements that a curfew had been imposed and people should disperse.
He alleged that the CRPF then started shooting pellets at the youth and Asrar, who had gone to pick up the ball, got caught in the firing.
“He just went out to pick up the ball when the CRPF lobbed a tear gas shell and his eyes started to burn. He could not run and he sat there on the road. Then the force started shooting pellets and a series of them hit his face,” Adil said.
“I tried to lift him and drag him to a corner, but another shell came and hit his head. He started to bleed. We then rushed him to the hospital on a bike.”
Adil said Asrar had never been involved in any stone-pelting case. ThePrint verified this with the local police and found that Asrar had no record of stone pelting.
School topper, didn’t care about Article 370
Asrar had scored 9 point grade out of 10 (equivalent to 90 per cent) in his Class 10, with full 100 marks in both science and maths.
Holding out his marksheet, Asrar’s mother asked: “Does this look like the marksheet of a stone-pelter? He just concentrated on his studies, played cricket and Kashmiri music. He loved Indian cricketers, especially Virat Kohli. He had no business picking up a stone and did not care about any political development, including the lifting of Article 370.
“He was a meritorious student at Kashmir Harvard School. We could not afford the fees, but still managed somehow because we knew he would make a big name. But he was brutally murdered,” she added. “If they wanted to hit him with a pellet, they should have hit him in the leg. Why his face and head?”
Asrar’s 11-year-old brother butted into the conversation at this point. “He had Virat’s screensaver on his phone. Here, no one could say anything against Virat even after he lost the World Cup. He wanted to be like him, and was called ‘mohalle ka Virat’,” he said.
Asrar’s exploits in a school T20 match against DPS, Srinagar, were covered in newspapers. “I cannot forget my boy’s face pierced with pellets, his head bleeding after a shell hit him. And then the police are shameless to say he did not die of shells and pellets. Is this medical report also a lie?” said father Firdous Ahmad Khan.
“The force (CRPF) was on its way to its base, when it fired pellets to disperse the crowd in the ground. My innocent boy just got caught in that.”
A teacher who had taught Asrar since class 8 also vouched for his excellence. “He was extremely bright; a student who always aimed at scoring high. In his class 8 and 9 as well, he scored 90 per cent, which was the highest in the school,” the teacher said.
Spoke to uncle for an hour before slipping into coma
Irfan Khan, Asrar’s uncle who rushed him to hospital after he was hit, said he was in his senses even an hour after sustaining the injuries.
“I asked him why he did not run and hide his face when the force lobbed tear gas shells and pellets. He said he couldn’t see anything as his eyes started to burn and he sat on the ground feeling helpless,” the uncle said.
“Will a stone-pelter not know how to react at a time like this? Will a stone-pelter sit on the ground to be hit by pellets?”
Khan said Asrar did not realise where the pellets came from. “He was bleeding profusely, but he asked me if his face was OK. He could feel the pellets on his face,” he said. “I told him he will be fine and that his face was fine and there was nothing to worry.”
Showing Asrar’s CT scan report, Khan said he had sustained a pellet injury in his brain, which led to a clot, and the doctors told him that he will have to be operated upon.
“After he was admitted, the doctors first put him on glucose, and then did his tests, including a CT scan. The scan showed a pellet in a section of his brain and they said it will have to be operated upon. One surgery was conducted and then he was put on a ventilator,” Khan said.
‘Held my hand, bit his tongue’
Last Monday, Asrar’s condition started deteriorating. The doctors called his father and uncle and told them he will have to be operated upon again.
“On Monday, the doctor told us that due to the pellet in his brain, there was water accumulating, and he was not in his senses because of that water,” Khan said.
According to Khan, the doctors scheduled a surgery for 4 pm that day and also allowed him inside the operation theatre.
“As the doctors were preparing for the operation, Asrar’s pulse dipped and they all panicked. The doctor said that his heart beat has slipped. They then gave him two shocks and revived his heart beat,” Khan said.
Due to this complication, the doctors then decided to wait for Asrar’s condition to get stable.
“He was brought back from the operation theatre as his condition was not stable for a surgery. The doctor told me that I should hold his hand tightly and sit beside him,” Khan said.
“Only some time had passed that Asrar tightened his grip on my hand. I thought he is becoming conscious but what I witnessed next, I will never forget. Asrar held my hand tight. His eyes were closed. He bit his tongue hard between his teeth and then his grip loosened. He passed away.”