The book titled KASHMIR Scars of Pellet Gun authored and compiled by a prominent Kashmir-based human rights defender Mannan Bukhari is the first of its kind to be written on the subject, and contains the details of horror caused by the use of pellet Gun in Indian controlled Kashmir Valley. By dent of his hard work, the author is unique among the contemporary thinkers, whose incisive thought has a great deal of attention both here & abroad.
Reliving his experiences and endless dialogue with the people of his land, which one has not seen so far; one find his emotional attachment to it the way author has presented book with the starting of reminiscent of 1990 when the armed struggle against illegal brutal occupation of India was on surge and has also highlighted that 70,000 people have been killed, nearly 8,000 have been subjugated to enforced disappearance, and thousands have been raped. Mannan has also presented a fleeting look of 2010 civil unrest and the unjustified killings and arrests.
Pellet guns were introduced in Kashmir as non-lethal alternative to quell the pro freedom demonstrations after more than 130 demonstrates were killed by the police and paramilitary in firing during 2008, 2009 and 2010 unrest. Since its introduction in Kashmir in 2010, the 'deadly' Pump Action Shotgun or Pellet Gun is a preferred weapon used on civilians, including protesters and bystanders, alike.
The book is divided into eight chapters which includes information acquired through RTI, medical practitioner’s experiences and observations on pellet caused injuries and fatalities, stories of some of the survivors, accounts of family members, thereby unveiling the lethality of so-called non-lethal weapons. Highlighting “The Brutal Face of Suppression” 283-page book makes it clear that pellets have caused unprecedented horror to survivors; there are the cases of lost vision, crippling lung, chest, and facial injuries. The age group 13 -30 has been the worst hit of this deadly weapon.
The beauty of the book, published by Partridge India, A Penguin Random House Company, that is a leading publication house, has cover page photo of a real X-Ray of a human skull maimed with pellets, all deep in the eyes, bones and brains which clearly indicates the lethality of the weapon which government is claiming to be non-lethal.
According to the book, the medicos treating the pellet victims in Srinagar find pellets deadlier than bullets. The surgeons often say a bullet hits one or two organs but a pellet damages multiple organs that too with multiple perforations.
By taking the work seriously the fraction in book documents a study conducted by SK Institute of Medical Science, Soura Kashmir, which divulged that from June 2010 to September 2010 alone, pellet gun fire have caused death of at least six persons, severely injured 198 persons and five persons according to report have lost their eyesight following the pellet injuries.
The book also highlights the continuous fear of State machinery especially intelligence agencies as a result of which many families prefer to treat their victims in private clinics as in Government Hospitals they fear being rounded up by intelligence agents and fear from police to register cases against pellet victims under section of sedition and waging war against state.
Although a large number of pellet injury victims have not even been part of protests as their narration reveals that how they were just hit in a targeted manner. As revealed in the book the families of the pellet affected youth face shortage of financial resources and as a result the treatment of victims has been stalled.
It is heart wrenching to read how youth left their homes but never came back, but with the pierced bodies busted with pellets by government forces. They promised to come back to their parents but came in coffins.
The Judgment of the State Human Rights Commission obtained through RTI Act by the author, substantiates the author’s stand and says, “..From the report, it is clear that the deceased and the injured were completely innocent civilians but for the misadventure and unbridled powers exercised by CRPF personnel a precious life has been lost and the present subject has sustained permanent disability. The incident is an example which shows that many innocent civilians have unnecessarily lost their lives only because the Security forces had run amok and were not subjected to any command or control.”
The author presents the haunted baggage of the victims who were injured in this chaos and could not even receive proper medical attention. Their parents did not have a single penny than to fulfill the last wish of their dying children, of eating an ice-cream. How these scars can let their parents to live in peace?
The author has also highlighted the worst condition of pellet sufferers who have been subjugated to complete vision disability, many are mentioned there who have faced excesses by forces, some of them have been blinded, some of them have disfigured.
The author supplies an in-depth analysis of various aspects of the problems faced by the victims and their families. The heart rending accounts shared by the victims, their families and the details provided by the doctors who have treated these pellet gun victims is bone chilling for a reader.
The two defining aspects of the book are that it has one focused on statistics and has also featured the prominent works by other writers. The book from page no 89 to 168 documented the articles from renowned journalists and they have severely criticized the use of pellet gun on innocent civilians. By documenting these articles which have appeared in different publications including New York Times, Mannan in other words claims that this act of suppression and brutality occurred before the eyes of the world and still nothing happened.
The author has presented R.T.I Reports from different hospitals of the valley and from this statistics we have come to know that from a minor public healthcare facility to a major hospital of the valley all have received scores of patients suffering from pellet injuries since its use from 2010 by government forces. It also offers medical research articles prepared by renowned doctors of the valley.
Gautam Navalakha in his foreword of “ Kashmir Scars of Pellets Gun’’ has depicted it as a book which tells you records and documents, what befell people at the hands of Indian occupation forces, when the military forces turned “non-lethal”. And in so doing it further lends credence to the body of literature about the hideous aspect of ‘War to win Hearts’, where not just hearts but minds are target of attack.”
According to Gautam Navalakha a prominent human rights activist, “the significance of this book, lies in collection and collating of data acquired through RTI as well as based on medical practitioners own experience and observations on pellet caused injuries and fatalities. It is stories of some of the survivors, accounts of family members and others that recalls real life happenings as they unfold and their aftermath. It is the everydayness of this happening, the real events and those involved. It is told simply and lucidly. But in the end it is much more than that.”
From this book ‘Kashmir Scars of Pellet Gun’ we came to know that author has worked with his full enthusiasm to get data via RTI and has visited continuously to the pellet gun victims across the valley. The author has also documented static’s and data to support the argument that the use of pellet gun is a crime against humanity. A detailed account of the havoc created by the deadly pellet gun in Kashmir Valley is shown in readable and entertaining style.
Overall, the book is effective, because of its sensational, horrific but unique subject matter. The author has done admirable job and the style of writing is brilliant and a stunning work by the author Mannan Bukhari that touches your heart to the core. The book is memorable and powerful, and as evidenced by its appealing title “Kashmir Scars of Pellet Gun” and wonderful Teaser/ Tagline “The brutal face of suppression”, has successfully succeeded in bringing to the world a story previously largely unknown, denied, or ignored. This book would surely mark the beginning of a new chapter in the history of use of pellet gun on humans, Suppression and Kashmir. As such, it stands as a success. This book will challenge our way of thinking, bring tears to our eyes and screws us with the unexpected sufferings of the victims and their families.
Reviewed by Saba Shah
Saba Shah is a social activist and a freelancer. She can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org