Kashmir hospitals overwhelmed after days of violence
SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Four days of clashes between anti-India protesters and government troops have overwhelmed hospitals in India’s portion of Kashmir, where doctors and other staff were exhausted from treating hundreds of patients. The violence has left at least 31 dead and more than 1,400 injured.
One doctor at the region’s main government hospital said staff had performed more eye surgeries in the last three days than they had in three years.
“We’ve performed about 100 surgeries in the last three days. Most of them are going to lose eyesight in one eye. All we have been able to do is contain further damage,” the doctor said Wednesday.
“I’ve worked continuously for more than 70 hours since Saturday, operating on mostly young boys with severely damaged eyes,” he added.
All the doctors and the hospital staff spoke on the condition of anonymity as they said authorities directed them not to speak to reporters.
The violence erupted over the weekend after government troops killed a top leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest rebel group fighting Indian rule in Kashmir. The dead included one policeman. At least 150 policemen and soldiers have been injured.
Troops used live ammunition and pellet guns to try and quell the angry, rock-throwing crowds that gathered across the region in defiance of a curfew imposed by Indian authorities.
At least 300 injured civilians, most of them wounded by bullets and pellets, have been admitted to Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, in the region’s main city of Srinagar.
Another doctor said: “Most of the patients with bullet injuries have wounds in their abdomen and upper chest. Our operation theaters are working 24 hours. We are exhausted.”
Amid reported scuffles between law enforcement and hospital staff, many injured civilians said they were beaten up by police and paramilitary soldiers en route to hospitals.
Zubair Ahmed, a teenage student, with pellet injuries all over his face, head and left eye, was brought to the Srinagar hospital sharing an ambulance with another young man with a bullet wound.
Soldiers stopped the ambulance and beat him and the other man, who later died due to blood loss, he said.
New Delhi-based English newspaper Hindustan Times quoted Kashmir’s heath administrator, Saleem Ur Rehman, saying about 50 ambulances were damaged as they ferried injured people to hospitals. The newspaper said the official didn’t specify who damaged them.
However, rights activists and ambulance drivers said government forces attacked them on the way to hospitals.
Authorities have said they would investigate the complaints.
At hospitals in Srinagar, scores of local volunteers, wearing jackets with incandescent signs identifying them as “Razakaar” in Urdu and “Volunteer” in English, received the injured as ambulances brought them in from rural areas.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and most Kashmiris in the side under India’s control want independence or a merger with Pakistan. Since the 1990s, more than 68,000 people have been killed in Kashmir’s uprising against Indian rule and the subsequent Indian military crackdown.
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