SRINAGAR: Twenty-month-old Hiba Nisar, from the volatile Shopian village in south Kashmir, has become the youngest pellet gun victim in Kashmir. Doctors are worried that she may never be able to see again with her right eye, as it has been damaged by pellets fired by security forces.
"I, Hiba and my son were sitting in a kitchen on Sunday morning, as we felt suffocated due to heavy tear gas shelling by security forces outside. As we tried to move out of the kitchen and open the door of our house, a pellet hit Hiba in the eye and she cried in pain," Marsala Jan, the victim's mother, said.
Hiba's family lives in Kaprin village of Shopian, about a kilometre from the Batagund village where six militants and a soldier were killed in a gunfight on Sunday morning. During the encounter, clashes broke out between local youths and security men forcing the troops to fire pellets, bullets and tear smoke shells to disperse stone pelting protestors.
A young boy was killed and 18 others were injured in the retaliatory action by the forces. Among the injured, about a dozen, including Hiba, sustained pellet injuries.
"We weren't pelting stones on the forces. Why did they fire pellets at us? Why did they have to target my 21-month-old daughter? Don't they have children at home?" Marsala said.
Doctors at SMHS hospital in Srinagar, where Hiba was referred from the District Hospital in Kulgam on Sunday morning, performed a surgery on her.
"They performed one surgery yesterday and told us that another surgery will be done after a few days," Hiba's father Nisar Ahmad Bhat said.
He said Hiba screamed in pain through the night and couldn't sleep. "It was a struggle for me and my wife to calm her. Other patients and their attendants in the ward watched helplessly and couldn't fight back tears," Nisar, a daily wage worker, said.
"She is too young to realise what has happened to her. We're all praying that her vision is restored," Nisar said.
A senior eye specialist at SMHS hospital, however, wasn't optimistic about little Hiba seeing again with her right eye.
"The retina and lens in her right eye have been damaged. She may need more surgeries," the doctor said, adding that the pellet is still lodged in her eye. He said chances of her seeing again with her right eye are minimal.
"I wish the pellet had hit me. What was my daughter's fault?" Hiba's mother said.
Thousands of people were injured in pellet firing by security forces during five month long unrest in Kashmir after killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8, 2016. Many including a 13-year-old girl Insha Mushtaq, who became face of pellet victims, lost their eye sight because of pellets.
Since then there has been repeated calls to end use of pellet guns in Kashmir but security forces continue to use it to deal with protestors during law and order situations.