Srinagar: Violence rocked Kashmir valley once again Sunday, the last day of the 10-day Muharram mourning period, as clashes between security forces and Shia Muslims attempting to take out processions to mark the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, were reported from several areas.
Locals officials in Srinagar’s Zadibal locality claimed that at least 200-250 Shia mourners were left injured in the clashes, with most of them sustaining pellet wounds.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police, however, said 30-40 of its personnel were also injured in the clashes. The clashes were still going on in several parts of Srinagar at the time of filing this report.
“We were requesting people to follow the protocols but they didn’t listen. Instead, they threw stones and left at least 30-40 police personnel injured,” a senior police officer said. “There were at least 12 violent incidents but the situation is being brought under control. We have also made some detentions today.”
Locals said the injured opted for “home treatment” fearing government reprisals, essentially leaving them to extract the pellets without medical assistance.
Authorities at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, where most pellet victims in Kashmir are treated at the ophthalmology ward, said only a total of seven persons had been brought in for treatment since Saturday evening.
Medical Superintendent, SMHS Hospital, Dr Nazir Choudhary, told ThePrint that three of the seven have been discharged.
Officials in the J&K administration, however, said an unspecified number of patients were being treated at different hospitals of Srinagar. They said some critically injured patients were admitted to the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Media Science (SKIMS).
‘Police firing without provocation’
Speaking to ThePrint, pellet victims and their families accused the police of firing pellets and tear gas shells “despite there being no provocation”.
“It was a peaceful procession and there was no provocation. We were just moving ahead when the police hit us first with tear gas smoke shells and then pellets,” said Suhail Abbas (19), who received 40 pellets in his face, neck and arms.
“I underwent a surgery in the morning and doctors have told me that a burst vein in my eye has to heal first before I can have further surgeries,” said Abbas, who is being treated at the SMHS.
Doctors at SMHS said one of his eyes has suffered severe damage.
Nazir Ahmed, the father of 15-year-old Tanveer Ahmed whose photograph went viral triggering social media debates, said security forces left his injured son on the streets.
“Someone took him to the Bemina hospital first from where he was referred to SMHS,” said Ahmed, a shopkeeper. “He has undergone one surgery but he has several pellets in both his eyes and that are yet to be extracted.”
Tanveer was studying in a school at Aligarh and had returned home in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “I had sent my son away from all the violence, and the moment he returned, this happened. Doctors will tell us in the morning about the fate of his eyesight,” Ahmed added.
Family members of a youth from Zadibal being treated at SMHS said they had to bring the patient by boat as all the exits were barricaded. “Ambulances were also not allowed to move,” said the youth, who did not want to be named.
Second day of clashes
This was the second of clashes as Saturday, which marked the 9th day of Muharram, also saw violence in Bemina area of Srinagar, which left over 30 people injured.
Parts of the Valley, particularly the Shia-dominated localities, woke up to strict restrictions Sunday morning, with both police paramilitaries being deployed massively to prevent the processions.
Residents of Zadibal area said their locality had been put under siege with security forces manning all entry and exit points.
Police teams were seen making routine rounds of the area Sunday asking people to stay indoors. This led to heated exchanges, which culminated into massive clashes by Sunday afternoon.
The Anjuman-e-Sharie (a Shia organisation) made announcements in the area asking people not to take out any processions, but the young residents decided to go ahead with their plans.
“All around the country, religious processions are being allowed but it is only in Kashmir that carrying out religious duties results in vicious punishment,” Tanveer Pathan, the Zadibal councillor, told ThePrint. “At least 200-250 people have received injuries and most of them are wounded by pellet guns. The storm that hit Kashmiri people last August seems to have no end.”
Tabish, another Zadibal resident, said hundreds had been left injured despite the mourners following all social distancing norms. “We have been told that the restrictions are due to Covid-19 but we were following all social distancing norms and yet they resorted to violence,” he said. “Hundreds have been left injured and are being treated by locals who are extracting the pellets using disinfectants.”