Government Plugs Ears As Experts Sound Alarm
Srinagar, Mar 8: Pepper gas Friday claimed life of a 60-year-old woman from downtown Srinagar, medicos said.
According to medicos at the Casualty of SMHS hospital here, Hajra Begum wife of Habibullah Bhat of Aali Kadal was brought dead after she suffered a sudden asthma stroke due to pepper gas. “She had a history of asthma and died due to sudden breathlessness at home following a pepper gas blast. The patient was suffering from chronic obstructive airway disease,” medicos wrote in her Out Patient Department (OPD) ticket. They said she was brought dead at around 8: 15 pm.
Quoting her family, doctors said a pepper gas grenade landed in their house and the woman died within no time.
Brazenly ignoring the health hazards associated with the use of pepper gas, the J&K government is doing little to ensure that police and paramilitary forces stop using the hazardous substance while dealing with protesters in Kashmir.
On Friday, reports of unabated use of pepper gas to quell protests poured in from different parts of the Valley.
Muhammad Faisal, a student from Old Srinagar, said his grandmother ‘almost died’ after police and CRPF resorted to pepper gas shelling in the area the other day. “My grandmother is an asthma patient. She almost died after the pepper gas shelling. It has a very harmful effect on normal persons, not to talk of sick,” he said.
Ishfaq Bhat, a resident of Safakadal said pepper gas shelling in the area is a routine affair. “Our life has become a hell. Every time there is an incident of stone pelting, police and CRPF resort to pepper gas shelling. My mother is an asthma patient. In the past few days, she suffered asthma attacks thrice,” he said.
“The entire area has been affected by indiscriminate use of this gas. People feel symptoms like dizziness, coughing and vomiting.” Medicos at the SMHS hospital here said the forces are using pepper gas close to the health institutions as well. “It is very difficult for doctors as well as patients to make entry into the hospital and work. These things were heard of only during Israeli attacks on Palestine.
We feel suffocated and so do patients,” said Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan.
According to health experts, pepper spray is a lachrymatory agent that can cause temporary blindness. “It is a chemical compound that irritates eyes in the first place. Tears and pain are minor things. It can lead to temporary blindness,” said an ophthalmologist, who requested not to be named. He said the use of pepper gas in Kashmir is going on unabated and can lead to severe health problems among the affected populace.
An ENT specialist said patients visit the SMHS hospital with allergic conjunctivitis. “The use of pepper gas causes inflammation of eyes. It is a toxic and can even cause blindness if fired directly into eyes,” Dr Manzoor Keng told Greater Kashmir.
A chest disease specialist said: “It can cause severe problems to persons with chest diseases. They face a risk of attack. In bronchitis patients, it can precipitate attack. The number of patients complaining of asthma attacks has increased after the use of pepper gas in many Valley localities,” said Dr Naveed of Chest Disease Hospital here.
Senior National Conference leader Ali Muhammad Sagar Friday said the use of pepper gas is going on unabated and he will take up the matter with Chief Minister and Director General of Police, a local news gathering agency CNS reported. “People are complaining about the use of pepper gas and I assure them that I will discuss this matter with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. The excesses committed by CRPF personnel cannot be tolerated.”
On Thursday, District Development Commissioner Baseer Ahmad Khan directed the Superintendent of Police (North) Srinagar to furnish a “factual report” whether the pepper grenades were used or not in his area of jurisdiction. “Your reply in the matter must reach this office within one day,” the letter reads.
The Resident Doctors Association has also condemned the use of pepper guns in the vicinity of health institutions, saying, “It makes working inside the hospitals very difficult, not to talk of attending patients.”
According to reports, pepper gas has caused death of three persons in past one month-Muhammad Yusuf Sofi (40), Abdul Rashid Sheikh (60), Hajira (75). All were the residents of Srinagar.
The Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has also directed police and paramilitary CRPF to refrain from using excessive pepper gas for crowd diffusion, saying other methods of controlling law and order need to be explored.
Greater Kashmir Friday received dozens of calls from various areas alleging that police and paramilitary forces resorted to indiscriminate use of pepper gas this evening.
“My aged parents are suffering with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The pepper gas has caused severe complication and they face problems in breathing,” said Muhammad Yousuf Nadaf of Daribal area of Naid Kadal.
Inhabitants of Zakura Crossing said police and CRPF fired many pepper gas shells in the area, causing severe health complications to children and senior citizens.