Thursday, September 23, 2010


By: Arati Jerath

The six bullet-hit patients lying in the inner recesses of ward 16, the main surgical section of Shri Maharaj Hari Singh Hospital, never even knew that an all-party delegation had arrived from Delhi on Monday to meet them. The accompanying posse of security men had whisked away the MPs almost from the entrance after azadi slogans ripped through the ward.
The melee that followed is the daily story in the Valley. The police collared sloganeers and took them away. One was an engineer and the other teacher. Both are still in custody.
A local television crew that tried to film the incident was roughed up and almost had its camera snatched. Patients, doctors and nurses watched in stoic silence. More frustration and anger from an ever-growing list of grievances.
Two days after the all-party delegation left, the feeling of disappointment continues to rankle. ''They spoke to just two patients,'' said one hospital staff. ''They spent less than 30 minutes.''
Like most VIP visits, this too was a controlled exercise with authorities putting up a security wall round the MPs and restricting their interaction. CPM's Sitaram Yechury was led to an anteroom to meet a patient handpicked to talk to the delegation. BJP's Sushma Swaraj and LJP's Ram Vilas Paswan were taken to bed number 2 where another selected patient was waiting.
But this is Srinagar after nearly four months of street agitations and over 100 dead. As Swaraj and Paswan made sympathetic inquiries, the patient on bed number 2 turned renegade and started shouting, ''Hamein azadi chahiye!''
Suddenly, there was commotion. Someone pushed past the security forces and pumped his fist in the air. ''Hum kya chahate? Azadi,'' he chanted.
That's when the security panicked. The delegation was bundled out and the sloganeers arrested. The visit ended at the entrance itself. The rest of the patients in the ward barely registered what was happening.
''I never got a chance to talk (to them),'' said Zahoor Ahmed (30), recovering from a bullet injury in his midriff. ''I wanted to ask them to stop the security forces from firing at us. I wanted to ask them to help us get justice. I wanted to tell them that we Kashmiris want freedom.''
Doctors revealed that the delegation was to have visited at least three wards to meet the 16 patients with bullet wounds. ''They would have got the full picture only after talking to all of them,'' said one doctor. ''I wish the authorities hadn't got so agitated by a little bit of slogan shouting. People have to be allowed to let off steam. Isn't this what democracy is all about?''


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