On the evening of 10 July 2016, at around 6 pm, Tamana Ashraf, a nine-year-old girl, was sitting by the window of her house at Tulumulla, located in the Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir. A day had passed since the funeral of Burhan Wani, the divisional commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, who was killed after a brief gun battle with the security forces in South Kashmir’s Kokernag on 8 July. Protests erupted in parts of Kashmir soon after, resulting in clashes between those from the region and personnel from the security forces. Tamana was observing one such confrontation unfold from within the confines of her home. Suddenly, she heard a loud bang. The noise was followed by an excruciating pain in her left eye.
When we met Tamana, currently a student in the fifth grade, on 11 July at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar, she wore a pair of dark glasses to cover her eyes. Recounting the sequence of events as she reclined on her bed at the hospital, she told us she was not sure of what had happened at first. Tamana’s mother, Shameema, recalled that she was initially unable to fathom why her daughter’s eye was bleeding either. A little later, they realised that Tamana had been hit by a rubber pellet. These pellets, which are presently categorised under “non-lethal” weapons, are fired through a pump-action gun. They were first reported to be used by the police and paramilitary forces in Kashmir in 2010.
Amid the turbulent atmosphere just outside their house, Shameema said that as she tried to rush Tamana to the nearby hospital, members from the Central Reserve Police Force hit her with a stone on her chest. She stated that an officer from the Jammu and Kashmir police began beating her and she soon lost her consciousness. She came to, she told us, only after some of the people on the street helped her and gave her some water. Shameema said that she then rushed her daughter to the SMHS hospital, where the doctors provided Tamana with first-aid. When we spoke to Tamana, the pellet was still embedded inside her eye.
Shameema said that the doctors have assured her that Tamana will recover, and that her eye-sight will not be affected. But she was still worried, given the gravity of her daughter’s injury, and the quality of the medical care she had been receiving so far.
A few beds away from Tamana’s, Irshad Ahmad, an 18-year-old man from Pakharpora in Budgam district, bore a bandage over his eye and marks left by pellets over his face. Ahmad had been hit by pellets all over his chest and abdomen too.