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2016 pellet victims protest ‘lack of government support’

Srinagar, Aug 18: Scores of pellet victims held a silent protest here on Saturday against the lack of government support to them.

Protesting under the banner of Pellet Victim’s Welfare Trust (PVWT) at Press Enclave here, the visually-impaired victims, hit in 2016, said the government’s promises of rehabilitation and jobs were not fulfilled.

A 20-year-old woman from Shopian, who did not reveal her name, said, “No one came forward to help her since 2016.”

“I have undergone many surgeries in my left eye but all in vain. My parents have spent more than Rs two lakh on my treatment, as they hope that somehow my eyesight may come back. Every person was talking about pellet victims, but no one came to us for any kind of help,” she said.

She said she was hit by a volley of pellets fired by the government forces in November 2016 during a protest at Chitragam, her native village.

Her father, she said, was a farmer and the lone bread earner of their family.

“My father cannot afford my treatment expenses anymore. My studies too have suffered. I was in class 12 when the incident happened and after passing my exams in 2016 with 330 marks, I decided to stop my studies due to financial constraints,” she said.

Another woman protester, from Pulwama, said she lost her right eye in October 2016.

Then a class-10 student, she had failed to appear in the examination and had to give up her studies, she said.

Unable to afford her treatment, her father, as per her, sold a part of his land for her medical expenses.

The victim has undergone four surgeries and has been readying for the fifth, which is to happen soon.

“While my parents are willing to go for the surgery, the doctors don’t seem confident enough,” she said.

The protesters asked for support from the public and other organisations for their treatment.

District Development Commissioners (DDC) of two south Kashmir districts, from where most of the protesting victims belonged, said they could be helped.

The DDC, Shopian, Owais Ahmad, said, “We can help them to meet the medical expenses. Although we do not have sufficient funds, we have asked for funds from the government.”

The DDC Pulwama, G M Dar, said: “Government has provided jobs to victims having 75% damage; I have no idea what polices are there for the others. I appeal people to come to my office. We will see what help we can provide them, and we can even forward cases to the higher authorities.”