Monday, Oct 03, 2022

When Grenades And Shells Explode In Tiny Hands

Musharraf Fayaz is the latest victim of the left behind unexploded shells and grenades which the children find near the encounter sites.

Representative Image- File

A day after an encounter between two local militants and the security forces, at Chandigund village, scores of children from Darandur also visit the spot. 

Like children of other villages, nine-year-old Musharraf Fayaz of neighboring Darandur village also went to the area. As he returned home, he had a shell in his hand which he had picked up from the debris of the house blasted during the encounter. He presumed it as a toy to play with. On January 26, afternoon Musharaff was playing with the shell along with his cousins, when smoke started coming out from it. Frightened cousins, younger than Musharaff, told him about the smoke and started running away from it. Musharaff held the shell in his hand until it exploded.

 His uncle Mohammad Akram Najar says people of the village called him on the phone to inform him that Musharaff has got injured. “I didn’t find him at home. They (the villagers) had rushed him to the district hospital Pulwama. There I found his hands cut. His both eyes damaged and his brain also had severe wounds,” Najar narrates. 

(Right: nine-year-old Musharraf Fayaz)

 He says the explosion caused by the shell had left his nephew in a critical condition. “He was shifted to Soura (Medical Institute Srinagar). He died after being in the ICU for eight days,” Najar says. As other relatives of the family join Najar, they say, how come the forces and the police didn't clear the encounter area, which only 12 hours before had seen fierce gunfight. In the encounter, two militants were killed. One civilian protester was also killed in the security forces firing while two girls sustained injuries. 

 Najars have not registered any complaint in the case and they consider Musharaff's death as a fate. They are not asking any compensation or justice from the government. “We know nothing happens here and no one is held accountable. All we want to know how the police and other agencies didn’t clear the debris after the encounter”, he asks. The answer  is hard to come.  

 Musharaff, who was a bright student and was studying in class 5th, is the latest victim of the left behind unexploded shells and grenades which the children find near the encounter sites, after the encounter. There are several such examples where children getting killed after playing with the explosive material left at the encounter site or near the encounter area. On June 10, 2011, a nine-year-old Obaid Lone of Ratsuna village of Pulwama brought a grenade to his home from near an area which had witnessed encounter, a week earlier.  While collecting apricots from nearby fields, Obaid found a live grenade presuming it a toy. He brought it to his home. When he tossed it onto the stone staircase like a ball, it exploded killing Obaid on the spot. He had splinter wounds all over his body and a deep gash on his throat.

 Human rights groups say nearly 100 people, including 80 children, had died owing to such 'leftover explosions' since 2002.

 In 2011 the then government had asked the police, army, and paramilitary forces to draft a standard operating procedure for "avoiding the loss of human life after IEDs remain undetected owing to non-clearance of debris at encounter sites". The government had instructed all deputy commissioners and the police to sensitize the people to the risk of "visiting encounter sites before the debris is cleared".

 The police, however, blame the non-cooperation of the villagers for these deaths. The police say the villagers compel the army and the police to wind up the clearance operation in a hurry as the youths start throwing stones at the forces after the encounter. 

 According to the procedure, the forces should clear the encounter area from the explosives within 24 hours of the operation. However, the procedure is not followed leading to the killing of children and civilians due to unexploded shells.