Srinagar: The “reign of terror” unleashed by police, army and paramilitary forces in Kashmir Valley post-Burhan Wani’s killing has left thousands injured. Figures show that more than 15,000 were injured during the five-month uprising.
Farooq Ahmad Bhat, 28, a labourer from Haril village in Kupwara, was one of the many injured during the agitation. He is currently recuperating at a rehabilitation centre in Bemina, Srinagar.
“On 18 August, I was in my home sitting with my wife. We heard voices of people outside our house who were marching towards 30 RR army camp to hoist a Pakistan flag,” says Farooq.
He came out of his house and started marching towards the camp. With each step, the procession swelled. After covering some distance, the procession reached a play ground, adjacent to a government school and few meters away from the army camp.
“As we were raising anti-India and pro-freedom slogans, everyone pleaded with me to hoist Pakistani flag on a treetop, since I was the best climber in the village,” says Farooq.
He complied with them. With green flag in his one hand, he climbed up the tree briskly. But what Farooq didn’t know was that army will be waiting for him when he will climb down.
People were cheering and raising pro-Pakistan slogans. But when you are hoisting a Pak flag right under army’s nose, you are inviting trouble.
“After seeing the Pakistani flag on the tree, army personnel from 30 RR camp came out. All the people who were accompanying me fled from the spot. I too tried to climb down quickly but it was too late,” says Farooq.
The army personnel, Farooq continues, caught hold of him and started thrashing him with sticks and gun butts.
“They started kicking me in my abdomen and thrashed my back with their gun butts. I was laid on the ground and dragged. At that moment, I thought it is the end of my life. After brutally thrashing me, they left me there to die. I was beaten unconscious.”
Naseema, Farooq’s wife, says that he was like a dead corpse lying on the ground when they reached the spot where he was lying unconscious.
“Someone told us that Farooq has been thrashed by army personnel. We started running towards the spot. Farooq was lying unconscious and blood was oozing from his mouth and other body parts. I was crying as I thought he was dead,” says Naseema.
It was Farooq’s brother who lifted him on his shoulder and took him to the Kalamabad hospital in a vehicle. On seeing the condition of the patient, the hospital authorities referred him to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura, Srinagar, says Naseema.
“In SKIMS, Farooq was admitted in the emergency ward of the hospital. There were bruises all around his body and his spinal cord was badly damaged. ”
Farooq had to have 27 stitches in his body, 15 in his mouth and 12 in his ear. His leg was also fractured.
On 22 August, Farooq was referred to the SKIMS Bemina hospital where he was operated upon for his spinal injury.
“After some days of surgery, we left to home as we were not able to afford the hospital expenses. Farooq remained confined to bed and four people were required to take him to washroom,” says Naseema.
Soon after spending some time at home, someone suggested Bhats to visit Shafqat Rehabilitation centre, Bemina, which helps in rehabilitating injured people and physically or mentally challenged person on minimal charges. The Rehabilitation centre is running under the auspices of Voluntary Medicare Society, a medico-social organisation dedicated to the care, treatment and rehabilitation of poor, disabled and mentally challenged persons. And they did come here.
Dr Bashir Ahmad, the administrator at the Shafqat Rehabilitation centre, says, “Farooq came here in a bad condition. He was not able to move or get up from his bed. There was L3 Burst fracture in his spinal cord. He was totally confined to bed.”
There are different phases in the Rehabilitation therapy of such injured persons, says Dr Bashir.
Dr Suhail Ahmad, a physiotherapist at the Rehabilitation centre, says, “We first help them in standing up from the bed, then in moving on a wheelchair, then on a walker, then on crutches and our final goal is that patient will be able to move without any support. It all happens because of exercises.”
He also says that Farooq is in the final phase of his treatment. He is able to walk now with the help of crutches and will soon be able to walk on his own.
Farooq says that poverty made him leave his studies after completing his BA in 2014 and started working as a labourer.
“Due to financial problems, I was not able to study further. Soon after my marriage, I started living separately with my wife. We have constructed a makeshift tin shed where we were living happily. But the tragedy shattered all our dreams,” says Farooq.
To bear expenses of hospitals was a big challenge for a family that lives in a shack.
“I borrowed some money from neighbours and close acquaintances. Besides the local Bait-ul-Maal also helped us,” says Naseema.
Dr Bashir Ahmad says that the charges for the treatment at Shafqat Rehabilitation centre are very low. Since Farooq was not able to pay even that much amount, the centre decided to treat him free of cost.
Farooq laments the day he left his home in excitement to hoist Pakistani flag on a treetop.
“I am first thankful to Almighty Allah who gave me new life to live and I also thank Shafqat Rehabilitation centre that helped me in my recovery.”