How a worse tragedy is playing out in Kashmir hospitals

Majid Hyderi
Majid HyderiAug 09, 2016 | 10:18

How a worse tragedy is playing out in Kashmir hospitals

Even as casualties soar to a record high in restive Kashmir, the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar is bearing the brunt of the crisis, which has left at least 57 dead and over 6,000 wounded in just a month of unrest.

Since July 8, when the Valley erupted in the wake of the deaths of militant commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his two associates, the SMHS Hospital has been flooded with patients even as the government struggles to restore law and order.

J&K CM Mehbooba is yet to visit any of the hospitals.

The surgical ward 15 is overcrowded. Two to three patients share a bed. Amid sobs, doctors struggle to treat the wounded, whose number keeps rising.

Lying by his side on the bed, middle-aged Naseema Banu is nursing her son, Raja, who fell prey to pellets on August 5, in their native Kupwara, some 60 miles from Srinagar.

From forehead to toes, Raja's body bears multiple perforations, all visible to human eye. As doctors remove the cotton sheet covering his bare body, one can easily count more than 300 wounds, which have mostly swollen as reddish black blisters, some oozing out blood and pus.

On touching his perforated chest, one can feel air entering his body through the tiny, deadly pores. Raja, a class 12 student, was wounded on August 5 when, during a protest, the police fired pellets in the direction of  three children in the frontier district.

His medical records reveal the patient’s condition continues to be “critical”.

Suddenly, a phone call to one of his attendants aggravates the situation. “Police has again asked his father about Raja’s return from hospital as they need him for questioning.”

Upon learning about a “veiled threat” from the police, the mother-son duo cries bitterly. “His life is over. While he is dying of internal injuries, police fear is killing him by inches,” the mother cries.


In a bid to console the wounded, doctors ask their families not to lose heart, but take inspiration from others, particularly, teenager Zahid Ahmed of Damhal Hanjipora, admitted to ward-12, the adjacent ward.

Since August 5, Zahid is helplessly alone as no one from his family could attend him due to the strict curfew back home in south Kashmir.

He was brought to the hospital by one of his fellow villagers Tabassum Ahmed.

As per his medical records, Zahid has suffered “multiple pellet injuries over chest, abdomen and upper hips.” He is unable to utter a word, and his condition is also critical.

His attendant, however, is apprehensive that policemen in civvies have already taken their details for the registration of FIRs. Raja and Zahid are two of the 1,000-odd wounded undergoing treatment at the SMHS Hospital.

As per official records, the majority of the wounded have suffered bullet and pellet injuries while at least 350 of them, including 14-year-old schoolgirl Insha hailing from the apple town of Shopian, have already lost their eyesight.

Fearing profiling by police, however, many of the wounded, after getting initial treatment, flee from the hospital. “It’s mostly the critically wounded who stay back whereas others have been fleeing the hospital midway their treatment,” confirmed Doctors Association of Kashmir President Dr Nisarul Hassan.


But then some are simply unable to flee. Mob control measures have already rendered around 20 youth paraplegic.

Nineteen-year-old Shani from south Kashmir’s Bijbehara, which is chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s constituency is admitted at Post-Anesthesia Care Unit of SMHS Hospital.

The last time this girl stood was to watch protests on July 9, when a bullet hit her spine, leaving her paralysed for life.

Similar is the plight of 17-year-old Shahid from South Kashmir’s Kokernag, who suffered a spine injury when beaten up by the security forces.

Mehbooba is yet to visit any of the hospitals while most of such destitute are offered meals by humanitarian groups like the one operating from nearby mosque at Gole Market Karan Nagar.

As doctors discuss the challenges the hospitals confront, suddenly some people rush in shouting.

“Be prepared, 40-50 more wounded are being rushed in from Bijbehera and elsewhere.”

A few minutes later, ambulances start arriving.

While some lend a helping hand to shoulder the wounded, others shout pro-freedom slogans.  

In the meantime as bleeding patients are rushed in, operation theaters run short of surgical tables.

Not taking the risk of waiting for operation theatres to be free, some doctors decide to hurriedly operate upon some with “comparatively minor injuries” in the dressing room.

A few of the wounded with visibly contorted limbs are straight referred to the Bones and Joints Hospital, Barzulla.

At the B&J Hospital, ward 17 is flooded with spine chilling tales of the wounded with contorted limbs and fractured bones. Sobs reverberating across the deck only add to the gloom.

Among the wounded is a 70-year-old woman, nursing her fractured hip. Doctors apprehend she may not be able to walk again.

The aged woman is being consoled with stories of Shani and Shahid, the young paraplegic duo.

Here too, according to the doctors, the police has been busy “profiling the wounded protesters, forcing many of them to abandon treatment.”

The Valley’s sole super-speciality hospital SKIMS at Soura, on the other hand, looks more under police control. As per the hospital authorities, police have barred them from sharing any details of the wounded.

Back at the SMHS Hospital, as more casualities are rushed in, pro-freedom sloganeering gets louder.

By now, the police rush in to quell protests. Teargas shells are again fired right inside the hospital building.

Within moments it’s hazy; lung-chocking smoke has enveloped the hospital.  

Unable to bear the itching gas, Rameez, the pellet injury patient at ward 12 starts vomiting.

Lying by his side his mother cries for medical help.

But why is Naseema lying on the bed by her son when other wounded could be adjusted in her place?

“I have myself suffered pellet injuries on my shoulders and back during the same protests. Upon finding my son has suffered more injuries, I forgot my pain and sought formal discharge as I was admitted in another ward, unable to be with him.”

Last updated: August 11, 2016 | 11:55
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