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More than 90 people have undergone surgery after being hit by pellets in their eyes since Saturday, and the majority of them will either sustain some kind of permanent damage, suffer disfigurement or lose their eyesight entirely, doctors say.
"And all those operated have the threat of losing their eyesight immediately or in near future owing to the seriousness of their injuries," a senior doctor told the Hindustan Times.
While several of those injured are young men involved in protests, others like nine-year-old Saniya Aashiq are just caught in the crossfire. Aashiq's father says that his daughter, who had surgery on Sunday, will partially lose her eyesight.
Five-year-old Zohra Majeed's eyes have been spared, but she has been hit by pellet wounds in her legs and abdomen. Majeed's family claims that they were hit by the pellets by security forces when they were trying to take one of their relatives to the hospital. "What was their fault," Zohra's aunt told Kashmir Reader.
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Sajjad Khanday, an ophthalmologist, told The Indian Express that the use of pellet guns in the recent most clashes has been "unprecedented."
Pellet guns are described as a "non-lethal weapon," and this tag has only made it easier for policemen to throw caution to the wind, even though nothing could be further from the truth. Pellets are not made of rubber and plastic as initially advertised in 2010, but are more like iron ball bearings, which, when fired at high velocity can pierce the body and take out someone's eye.
In some brutal instances, hundreds of these iron balls have pierced the face or the body of one individual, and the cost of paying for treatment and medicines is something which one is stuck for a lifetime. But the trauma doesn't end with physical injury because those who have visible scars from pellet live in fear of identified, hounded and harassed by the cops.
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There is no official figure on the number of injured by pellet guns since 2010, but doctors in Kashmir estimate them to be around 700. "And unfortunately, around 70 per cent of them lose their sight in one eye, and at times in both," Sheikh Sajad, an ophthalmologist, told The Hindu. "While they haven't been killed, their lives are ruined forever."
Last year, Amnesty International appealed to the Jammu and Kashmir government to stop using pellet guns. "In policing protests, the police must also distinguish between persons engaging in violence and peaceful demonstrators or bystanders. Any force used should be only against those acting violently, and the police should always ensure that uninvolved persons are protected from injury," said the human rights group.
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