His head and face are wrapped in bandage. Since Monday evening, he is lying motionless on a bed in Srinagar’s SMHS hospital. And the only signs of life in him are the beeps on vital-signs monitor wired to his body.
Just 20 hours earlier, nine-year-old Irfan Ahmed Sofi was playing his favorite game Football with his friends in Bijbehera area in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Today, the “football champ” as he is known in his locality, is battling for life at the Surgical ICU of the SMHS hospital after he was hit by a teargas shell while playing the game. Doctors say his condition continues to be critical.
“He is very sick. Next 24 hours are very crucial for him,” they said.
The three cousins who were with Irfan while playing and who accompany him at the hospital agree for a conversation with this correspondent, albeit reluctantly.
“We were playing in a local ground on the New Sicop Road when some protestors were being chased by forces,” Muneeb, one of Irfan’s cousins, said.
“We stopped playing when there was a commotion. And then a teargas shell was fired right into the playground,” another cousin, Jehangir Bhat said.
“The teargas shell hit Irfan right in his head. The force of the shell lifted him and pushed him a few feet away and he fell down,” said Junaid Ahmed, third cousin of Irfan.
“He did not get up after that. He did not even open his eyes,” the three cousins of Irfan recall with moist eyes.
Irfan, a resident of Jablipora Bijbehara is a Class 2nd student at Sheikh-ul-Alam Public School there. The only son and the youngest child of a woodcutter, Irfan has three sisters.
Doctors at SMHS Hospital said Irfan was received in a state of shock. “He has severe brain injury. His head has been badly smashed by the impact of the shell,” a doctor who had seen him said.
Having undergone an extensive brain surgery, he has been intubated. “We are trying to maintain his vitals. Let us hope he makes it,” the doctors said.
Outside the ICU, his father Bashir Ahmed Sofi waits on. “His life is in the hands of Almighty Allah. We can only pray for his speedy recovery,” he said.
Since July 9—following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani—over 100 people have been injured due to teargas and other shells, as per the hospital records. The injuries have ranged from severe to life-threatening.
At SMHS Hospital, persons with shell injuries to head have been operated upon for severe brain damage. “The shells had fractured their skulls, causing brain damage and threatening their survival,” a surgeon said.