Song of Sorrow

  • Nayeem Rather
  • Publish Date: Jun 1 2017 8:54PM
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  • Updated Date: Jun 1 2017 8:54PM
Song of Sorrow

The lament of a Kashmiri girl blinded by pellets

 

She talked about her dreams: of wanting to give her five sisters an education, of opening her own boutique, of arranging for her parents to undertake Hajj, of living an independent life. “But after they blinded me with pellets, everything seems ruined.” 

Parveena Bano Mir, 19, stretched out her hand and shook mine firmly, betraying confidence. She pulled out a chair and sat. “Ask the questions you want to. Don’t assume I will cry or that I will be uncomfortable with the questions. I think I am beyond weeping and mourning. I don’t weep. I have to fight and weeping is going to be of no help.” 

Sensing my struggle to start the conversation, she began recounting the day when she was hit by pellets, fired “from close range”, in her eyes and body. 

It was August 10, 2016, and Parveena was at the stream that flows by her house in Awoora, 10 km from Kupwara, doing the dishes after lunch. Anti-India and pro-freedom sloganeering had been going on in the village since morning. The police had conducted a raid the previous night looking for some stone-pelters. The wanted men escaped arrest, however, as the entire village had come out and chased the police away. 

In the afternoon, around the time Parveena went to the stream, the police, accompanied by the CRPF, raided the village again. The men started running. One of the wanted men fleeing the raid saw Parveena at the stream and stopped. He told her to go inside as the CRPF and police personnel were coming that way.

They were still talking when Parveena saw a group of five-six CRPF men running towards them. She alerted the man and fled. Parveena, thinking the CRPF would not a girl, didn’t move. The CRPF men came and began to ask her where the man was going. She declined to answer.

“They became angry and began to abuse me. One yanked me by my hair. I tried to run but one CRPF man hit my right arm with the gun. I fell.” 

She managed to pull herself up, pushed a CRPF man and ran towards her uncle’s house nearby. The CRPF men ran after her.

“As soon as they entered my uncle’s house, they started abusing everyone. They smashed windows and the fence (of corrugated aluminium sheets) with their guns.”

“They spotted me, and one of the men aimed and fired pellets directly at my body. I was hit in my eyes and suddenly everything became dark.” 

For about half an hour, Parveena writhed around on the ground in agony, crying for help. The family members had scattered under the assault; she was alone in the courtyard as the CRPF men around her were on a rampage.

When the CRPF men left, Parveena, by now “almost unconscious”, was taken to the Kupwara district hospital. The doctors washed the blood from her eyes and referred her to SHMS Hospital, Srinagar. She was operated upon twice but the vision in her right eye could not be saved. “The last thing I saw with my right eye was the face of the CRPF man aiming at me. I will never forget that face. It is like I have seen nothing except for that face. And since then I haven’t seen anything. I have no hope I will ever see with right eye again.”

Parveena was her family’s breadwinner. She ran a small tailoring shop with two apprentices and earn about Rs 30,000 a month. Her father, Ghulam Mohiddin Mir, had suffered a stroke in 2013, leaving him unable to continue working as a daily labourer. Parveena was 16 at the time, studying in class 10 and, in her spare time, doing an apprenticeship with a local tailor. “We had hardly anything to eat. It pained me. My sisters were distraught because they thought they would have to quit school.” 

She, she opted to drop out of school. A hard choice, she says. She took up tailoring full time, working 16 hours a day. By the end of the year, she was earning well enough to keep the family going. “I didn’t care about my education. I was happy that my five sisters were getting education. I felt my life had a meaning.”

She had saved some money for her dream boutique but it is gone now, spent on her treatment. As her father is still unable to work, the family has again fallen on difficult times. There is no money to even buy her medicine. The sisters may have to drop out of school. “I have still not lost hope. I know I will find something to do.” 

Three months after her blinding, Parveena started to work again. But just as she was getting back on her feet, her left eye started to lose sight, likely because tailoring demands intense eye concentration. She had to give up work.

Has anybody offered any help? “This is a cruel world. People ask for many things in return. I don’t want anyone’s money. I will earn my own money, with an honest job. I am a proud girl and freedom is important to me.” 

Initially, it was difficult to reconcile with loss of eye. But now she has the “satisfaction that my eye was sacrificed for the cause”. What cause? “The fight for restoring the dignity of Kashmiris.”

Is she angry with God that this has happened to her? “Allah didn’t blind me. India did. And one day they will be brought to justice – when we are free. I wish to see with the eye I have left the day Kashmir becomes free, and then I will die peacefully.”