Childhood lost to bullets
SRINAGAR: The musical tunes of a piano greet the ears as one walks towards the room of Muneer Ahmad. Climbing the creaky wooden stairs of a rundown two-storey house, the music gets clearer and louder. The tunes take us to Ahmad’s room where he seems lost playing his electronic piano while his younger sister cleans vegetable besides his bed. The music suddenly stops as we enter the room.
Ahmad is 19 years old, yet he does not live the life of boys of his age. He can neither play cricket, nor stroll around his locality with his friends and nor can he go to school. For the past eight years, his life has been confined to his bed after being partially paralyzed by a stray bullet.
Lying under a blanket on his bed, Ahmad recalls the horror of January 29, 2005.
“I was playing cricket downstairs with my friends when I suddenly fell down numb. I did not know what happened but I was unable to move,” he says in fluent Urdu.
Ahmad was then a class 6 student. He was rushed to the hospital where after investigations a bullet was discovered in his spinal cord.
“I was hit by a cold stray bullet which had come from Habba Kadal where some firing incident had taken place that day.”
Habba Kadal is just few kilometers from Ahmad’s locality, Abi-Guzar.
The bullet had pierced him eight inches deep into the spine, creating a hole in his back.
“I was completely numb and shocked to know that I was hit by a bullet which I did not even realise.”
Within days, Ahmad was operated and the bullet removed. However his condition could not get any better. His lower limbs are completely paralyzed which even refrains him from using the bathroom.
“For eight years my son has been on urine bags. Imagine his condition when he cannot even go to the bathroom on his own,” says his mother.
He grew up sitting on this bed, she adds.
Ahmad has three sisters, and two brothers who work as salesmen. He recently lost his elder brother to a road accident. His father, Mohammad Tariq Bhat supported the family by running a provisional shop in their locality.
“But after the death of my son, his health deteriorated and is unable to work. I have to take debt from people to treat my son,” Ahmad’s mother says.
Ahmad is unable to continue his education because of his paralysis and poverty. When asked about his aim in life he says, “I love music. I love playing the piano and singing.”
The life of 16-year-old Yawar Ibrahim is no better. It has been over three years since Ibrahim has spoken to his family. He can neither talk nor move and can’t walk on his own either.
It was June 30, 2009 when Ibrahim lost his childhood to a tear gas shell that hit him in his head, striking his brain. He was 13 at the time.
In 2009, mass protests were witnessed across the valley against the rape and murder of two women from Shopian district. Scores were killed and injured in the skirmish. Protestors and security forces had restored to firing and tear gas shelling across Kashmir.
On the fateful day, Ibrahim had gone to the market of his locality of Maisuma, Srinagar, to buy butter.
“It was not much trouble at that time in our area and shops were also open. While Yawar went out, my younger daughter was peeping through the window of the upper story,” says Naseema, Ibrahim’s mother.
Within no time the situation grew tense and the peal battle between the protestors and security forces began. While security forces started tear gas shelling and firing bullets at the protestors, Ibrahim, who was on his way home, got hit by a tear gas in his head.
“That tear gas shell hit him straight in his head. He was immediately rushed to hospital for treatment,” Naseema recalls as Ibrahim watches silently.
Ibrahim was in coma for 17 days. Though he gained back his senses, he lost his freedom forever. The tear gas shell had hit his nerves and brains. For eleven months he was spoon fed. Even as he comprehends everything, Ibrahim fails to talk or express himself.
“We have been treating him for so along. There has not been much improvement except that he can now sit on a wheel chair. He does not say anything even today,” says Naseema. Ibrahim tries moving his arms to show the mark on his head left by the tear gas shell.
Mohammad Ibrahim, his father, works as a mechanic. He takes debt from his friends and relatives for his son’s medication. The family wanted to take Ibrahim to New Delhi for treatment but did not have sufficient money.
“My eldest daughter had to quit studies to nurse Yawar. He is my lone son,” adds Naseema.
Ibrahim has not only lost his freedom and childhood, but his friends too. Ever since he got paralyzed none of his friends came to meet him.
When asked if he meets his friends, Ibrahim nods in negative, frowning while waving his hand.
The only time he opens his mouth is to say ‘mum’ while calling out to his mother.