550 landmine victims of Poonch district: 10-yr-old boy loses eye, hands in a landmine blast

Srinagar, June 19: Ashiq Hussain (10) who had to pay a heavy price due to the unresolved Kashmir dispute has lost both hands and an eye in a landmine blast planted by Indian army near his home in Khardi Karmara village about 6 km from Poonch near the LoC and he may go completely blind as the second eye is also seriously injured.

After being discharged from the hospital, he was brought home on June 19, 2011 to his village, Khardi. Tragedy struck when Ashiq was playing in a stream near. A mine buried in the rubble exploded, injuring him seriously. The place is about 1 km from the cross LoC trade centre at Chakkan da Baag.

Ashiq’s mother Akhtar Bi is still in shock after coming to know about his condition. The father of victim works as labourer in Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, Ashiq was taken to District Hospital, Poonch, from where he was referred to Government Medical Collage and Hospital, Jammu, and was later taken to Indian city Amritsar.

“He has lost one eye and both hands. Though his left leg was also seriously injured, doctors say the bone is intact,” Munishi Khan, the victim’s maternal grandfather, said.

The residents who agitated said that the landmines planted by the Indian Army along the LoC especially near the residential areas had made their life miserable and insecure.

The poor family has not even been approached by any official of the administration or the authority for financial assistance.

“We arranged money from neighbours and relatives for the treatment of Ashiq,” a villager said, adding: “It is not a lone case. There are hundreds of such victims who are physically handicapped and have no resource of income.”

People who lost their limbs in landmine blasts planted by Indian army in Poonch district have got no compensation despite recommendations by the Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission. The human rights activists said that the number of landmine victims is about 550.

A landmine victim near LoC, Faqir Mohammad of Shahpur village in Haveli tehsil of Poonch says he has been visiting the Deputy Commissioner’s office for the last four years, but every time he is told by the officials to come later.

The Commission recommends a compensation of Rs 1.5 to 2.5 lakh in most cases. “I was a potter doing labouring with the Indian Army. On May 16, 1986, I lost my left leg in a landmine blast,” he recalls, adding that he cannot lift even 2kg weight now. “I live in a snow-bound area of Poonch district. The pain in my amputated leg is unbearable in winter,” says Faqir Mohammad. “The artificial limb causes bruises and leaves deep sores while walking. I have to trek down 5km to simply board a bus to reach the Deputy Commissioner (DC) office. But all I get is disappointment.”

Mohammad Sadiq of Banwat village also lost his left leg in a blast. He is forced to beg for alms to feed his three girls and wife. Ironically, his name was amongst the 60 recommended by the Commission in 1996. “For the past few years, I have been spending most of my time begging in Indian state Punjab to earn a living. I don’t know how I will marry off my daughters,” he says, worried.

The disappointed is so widespread that many victims have not approached the authorities for relief as the authorities were not taking care of the cases. Take the case of Mohammad Deen of Barbad Kerni. He lost his right eye and right foot in a landmine blast in 1994 while working in his fields. He has not got any artificial limb and walks with a stick, by wrapping the damaged limb in a cover woven out of grass.

“Since the others did not get compensation, I did not opt for it. The accident ruined me. Due to my handicap, I could not get married. Now I live alone,” the victim says.

A  local human rights activist, Kamal Jeet Singh said, “I have filed 250 cases before the state human rights commission and the Deputy Commissioner (DC), but barely 10-12 persons have got relief in the past so many years. Despite being recommended by the commission, all 250 cases were dismissed by the screening committee at the district level.”

Singh said that at least 550 victims of landmine blasts from Poonch district are awaiting compensation. “Government functionaries say that only those who became victims of landmines after 1991 shall get relief. Our argument is that Poonch has been facing war-related crises since 1947. So what is the logic in discriminating against victims who suffered limb loss before 1991?” he asks.

The Pritam Spiritual Trust, Poonch, chairman Jagveer Singh says: “At least 61 per cent amputees due to landmine blasts in the border areas belong to Poonch district. Many died making the rounds of Deputy Commissioner (DC) office, but never got relief in their life,” he says.