Blinded dreams

Blinded dreams

Hundreds of pellet gun victims in Kashmir face a gloomy future as vision loss often represents a lifetime of inequality, poorer health, and barriers to education and employment, writes Mir Seeneen

Despite the unrest in Kashmir, youngsters try to succeed in various fields but some young boys and girls are being deprived of a deep sense of freedom — the right to access education. Hundreds of pellet gun victims in Kashmir face a gloomy future as these young people have been blinded — either partially or completely by the pellets hit by the troops. These shotguns have resulted in serious injuries to the eyes that dreamt of a bright future.

The unfortunate occurrences have put a halt on the future endeavours of the victims and robbed them of their dreams to pursue their goals. They were forced to leave their schools as no such Braille system is prevalent in Kashmir except for a few schools in the city catering to children with special needs. It has not only affected their education but they’re also left with no prospects of marriage. The deep sense of non-acceptance is so familiar with them as they’re often cold-shouldered by society. To their dismay, most of the survivors are struggling to cope with this reversal of fortune, particularly when they are left with no medium for schooling.


Urfee, 20, from Chattergam Kalan, Shopian, is a creative designer who used to outshine in all the co-curricular activities at her school until fate jeopardised her plans. “That day was a nightmare. Whenever I recall that moment, it sends shivers down my spine. Being fond of knitting, I was weaving a sweater in the yard of my home when suddenly the forces started chasing a bunch of local stone pelters and resorted to aimless firing of pellet shotguns and it hit my eyes. In a blink of an eye, my dream of becoming a fine artist was blinded. There’s no mode of literacy for me now.”

In the corner of a small room in the outskirts of Pulwama lies Shakir, another victim of the brutalities of pellets. A passionate cricketer and an ardent gym rat, Shakir was known as a fitness fanatic in the locality. In 2016, Shakir was preparing for his exams, when he was injured by pellets causing grievous injuries to his left eye. The series of misfortunes didn’t end here. To add to his woes, he was again hit by pellets in 2019, thus visually impairing him completely. Being fully deprived of sight, Shakir struggles to meet his day–to–day needs. While narrating his ordeal, Shakir murmured, “I crave to see my family and friends. What hurts the most is that I have been made familiar with the dark reality that I’ll never be able to see the hues of this colourful world again. It’s difficult to navigate this world with no vision. All I can see is darkness and not even a single ray of light. I can’t even study using tactile sign language. Now my entire life is confined to the four walls of my room.”

Having earned the sobriquet of ‘History Buzz,’ Uzma would do her best to keep up to the name. Keen on reading political history books, Uzma would spend most of her time in her compact study room. Till the time when her dreams were smashed to smithereens. Harking back to the ill-starred happenings of the day, she narrates: “I was reading at that time when I heard some Army men bawling “Stop” from outside. I peeped through my window and suddenly some little things pierced my eyeballs. I started crying and screaming in pain. I could never turn back to my study from that day onwards. I could never resume reading again.”

An oversight

A ninth-standard student, Aasif is another hapless victim of the cruelty of pellet buckshot. “It was the holy month of Ramadan, I was observing a fast and went out to get milk from the local shop when those tiny pieces of lead got embedded into my eyes. Spending a life of pain while dealing with a disability is very challenging. But our sufferings are being oversighted and our lives do not matter at all.”

The inaccessibility of Braille system in Kashmir stands as evidence for dereliction of duty for failing to even provide such victims a basic equitable resource of schooling.

These young people continue to live in a state of unabated darkness. Neither any infrastructure nor any printing units and sufficient study material are available for them. Even in the city, most of the government-run Braille presses are either non-functional or underutilised. Very few electronic manuscripts for Braille printing processes are prevalent. Such glitches have far-reaching consequences as the youth, despite being tech-savvy, have little or no training in Braille.

A lack of Braille resources for pellet victims is a collective failure of humankind and the Braille literacy crisis in Kashmir is categorically alarming.

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