Camillo Pasquarelli

2017 - 2018

Kashmir, India

The valley of Kashmir, a territory disputed by India and Pakistan since 1947, is one of the most militarized zones in the world. In 2010 the Indian government provided the security forces deployed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with a new weapon. Shotgun shells filled with hundreds of small lead pellets are since then used to keep urban protests under control. Defined as a “non-lethal” weapon, pellet guns should be aimed at the lower part of the body.

On 8 July 2016 guerrilla group Hizbul-e-Mujahideen’s young commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter by the Indian army. Popular especially among the youth thanks to his use of social networks to spread his message, Wani’s martyrdom was the sparkle that lighted up the entire valley. The government imposed a four-month-long curfew on the local population, while separatist leaders called for a continuous strike.

Hundreds of young boys filled the streets of Kashmir protesting against the “Indian occupation”, throwing stones against the army and the Kashmiri police. Security forces, since July 2016, responded using pellet guns extensively.

According to a UN report released in 2018, the new weapon is responsible for blinding around 1000 people and killing dozens.

Many of the victims were not involved in the clashes with security forces. Those who were hit during the protests tend to avoid speaking about it openly, fearing retaliation by the police.

For youngsters left with one eye reading has become too painful, thus forcing them to abandon their studies, giving up the chance of pursuing higher education. Men left blind, the only breadwinner in the family, are unable to work and provide for their beloved ones.

Carrying dozens of pellets in their bodies, victims face unknown long term health consequences.

Left partially or totally blind, victims speak of the darkness descended upon their lives. The only things left to see are the faint shadows that surround them.

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  • Amir Kabir Beigh, 26 years old, Baramulla. “In September 2010 i was going to buy some medicine for my mother by evening time when a group of security forces fired at me near the bridge of the old town. There had been clashes throughout the day but it was calm at that time. I was alone on the street so only after some minutes somebody found me and took me to the hospital. I have gone through a lot of surgeries all over India but i am still completely blind”.
    Amir is the first pellet victim of Kashmir, he received hundreds of iron balls on his body.

  • Habid Hussain Kasab, 26 years old, Anantnag. “I was coming back from the wood workshop on a bike with a friend. We stopped when we saw the clashes going on: the boys were attacking a police vehicle when one of them came out and they randomly fired. As soon as i was hit i put my hands on my eye and i felt the blood coming out. I fainted and woke up the day after in the hospital”.
    Habid received 2 pellets in the right eye and his vision is baerly 1%.

  • Shakeela Begum, 35 years old, Sheeri. “One night we heard some noise coming from outside our house. There were 20 security forces men with two tied and face covered boys. It was a fake encounter – when soldiers kill someone in cold blood while claiming that the casualty occurred in a gun battle. I went out and start to shout to a kashmiri policeman. He hit me with the stick so i slapped him telling he should feel ashamed of what is doing against his own people. After one week some clashes were going on so i opened the gate of my house to check the situation. The same policeman was on the road. He saw me and opened the fire. I immediately faint, but i think i heard him laughing during the last moment”.
    Shakeela received dozens of pellets on the chest, 1 on the left eye and 2 in the right one. The pellets have been shot from a very short distance and they have gone beyond the retina leaving her only 10% of the vision.

  • Shabkal Nazir Waseem, 25 years old, Bijbehera . “It was the day of Eid – the end of Ramadan – and i was watching the clashes happening on the national highway. The policemen saw me i was there and they targeted me. The security forces stopped all the vehicles, including the one carrying injured people. They took me to the hospital by a wood barrow. On the same day 4 person has lost their vision in Kashmir”. Nazir has received 100 pellets on the upper side of the body: 2 are in the right eye and 2 in the left eye. His visual capacity today is 10%.

  • Firdous Ahmed Dar, 24 years old, Sopore.
    "I was walking to a shop and there was no protest around but suddently a Central Reserve Police Force vehicle arrived and opened fire. I screamed for the pain and some people came and took me to the hospital. I just have bought a new autorickshaw - local taxi -selling a piece of land, but now i can't use it. With it i should have substain my family instead of being completely dipendent on them as i am now". Firdous received 6 pellets in his left eye. He completely lost his right eye hitten by 7 pellets.

  • Manzoor Ahmad Wani, 16 years old, Sopore.
    On 5th august 2016, Manzorr received 20 pellets on the body and from his left eye now he is not able to recognize the persons around him, but only blurred figures. "The police forces shot me from a distance of less than 10 metres. I still have one pellet in my eyes. The doctors sayd removing it is too dangerous. During the night i am not able to use the mobile and due to the injured i had to drop the school".

  • Asif Ahmad Sheikh, 10 years old, Anantnag. “After one week of the killing of Burhan Wani i went out for buying some sweets. The curfew had just been removed and i was at one shop in a tiny alley close to my house. From the main road a police vehicle passed by and some boys started throwing stones at it. They shoot them and i have been hit by 15 pellets. Now i have a lot of problems at school but my friends keep coming everyday at my home for helping me”. Asif received only 1 pellet on the right eye, but lost his vision entirely.

  • Danish Rajab Jhat, 24 years old, Srinagar. “It was evening time and the police was chasing the stone thrower in my neighborhood. I was just sitting on the side of the road and they shot me. I don't remember anything about that moment, i woke up in the hospital. The left eye was entirely damaged so the doctors replace it with an arti cial eyeball”. A shell entered through the left eye and the pellets dispersed all over the the head damaging also the righ eye. Danish has still 90 pellets inside hi body and from the right eye he can barely see shadows.