A strange silence hangs over the waiting hall outside Operation Theater in SMHS Hospital here as young boys with eyes ruptured with pellets wait for their turn to be called in. Suddenly a team of doctors come out for tea-break after yet another hectic day to perform eye-surgeries upon pellet victims. As the door of the waiting hall leading into the corridor opens, a woman walks forward, desperate to talk to the doctors.
“He still cannot see things in front of his eyes,” Shafeeqa Bano pleads with doctors. “Please help my son.” She is the mother of 12-year old Moin Mushtaq from Khanyar here on whom security forces fired pellets on October 2 this year while he was out to play cricket.
The doctors pause to listen to the woman as they call for the medical history of the boy, a class 6th student.
“No more surgeries can be performed on his eye,” Dr S Natarajan, an eye surgeon breaks the sad news to the distraught woman. “This is the best he can see with the eye,” he adds.
But the mother in Shafeeqa isn’t ready to buy the doctor’s advice. “We have come here with a hope that you will operate upon him …please help my son to see the world with his injured eye again,” Shafeeqa pleads again as a local doctor acts as a mediator between the mother and Dr Natrajan.
“He is alright. The previous operations have gone well,” the Mumbai based surgeon replies while directing another local surgeon to explain to the woman.
The local doctor intervenes as he turns towards Shafeeqa. “The middle of the eye is gone with the injury,” the doctor tries to explain to the woman as she draws an imaginary circle in air with her finger and pokes this circle with other finger to make the woman understand the nature of the injury in her son’s eye.
“But why will you not operate upon him again and help him see better,” the mother breaks down. Seeing his mother crying, Moin, who by now was standing still, tugs on to his mother as her desperate cries grow louder.
Shafeeqa wraps her arms around Moin, and beseeches him not to worry. Looking towards the doctors she sighs: “Can’t his eye be transplanted? Take my eye and help him see. He is my son. No mother can see her son in this condition. Please try to understand.”
Sensing her desperation Dr Natrajan explains to her that the eye transplant won’t work.
Shafeeqa cries again as Moin wipes tears off her face.
About 100 civilians were killed, about 15000 injured and around 12000 arrested by security forces this summer in Kashmir to quell a popular pro-freedom uprising triggered by the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8. About 8000 of the injured were fired with deadly pellets, mostly in upper parts of the body like face and eyes. About 1100 of them have been fully or partially blinded.
Like Moin, numerous pellet victims face the harsh reality that they might not be able to see with their injured eyes again. Yet, they line up for surgeries at SMHS Hospital, while doctors try to restore vision, and keep the hope alive.