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My life is over, says A Kashmiri

A story from washinton Post by Annie Gowen

To control crowds in Kashmir, Indian police fired pellets. Now this 16-year-old will never see fully again.

He had been his team’s top batter. But Faisal, 16, was recovering from a pellet wound that robbed him of 93 percent of sight in his left eye. As he healed, playing was out of the question.

One July evening, he decided to try. His teammates were on the dusty school field, as always. The wobbly wooden wickets had been set up, as always. The sun was turning the clouds behind the Himalayas a rosy pink.

He slowly raised the bat.

It has been well over a year since more than 70 died and thousands of others were injured in anti-government protests in Indian-administered Kashmir — where Pakistan-backed Muslim militants have long fought for independence from India.

During the conflict, India’s security forces used 12-gauge shotguns loaded with pellet cartridges for crowd control — spraying mobs with millions of 2-millimeter metal pellets. Ultimately, more than 6,000 were injured, including more than 1,100 with permanent eye damage. A representative to the United Nations from Pakistan called it “the first mass blinding in human history.”

Faisal is just one victim in the latest bloody chapter in the strife-ridden, Muslim-majority territory that has been a source of dispute between India and Pakistan for decades. Many fear that deepening anger against Indian security forces could prompt more young men to join Kashmir’s small but dangerous militancy.

In Karimabad — a village of 3,500 apple growers and farmers whose residents have long been sympathetic to militants — nearly a dozen young men have suffered permanent eye damage from pellets, including five from Faisal’s cricket team. The graffiti on a nearby overpass tells the story: “Stop Blinding Us.”

The pitch was slow and gentle. Faisal swung, expecting to feel the familiar “thwack” of the ball hitting the sweet spot of the bat. But the ball hit the wicket and bounced away. Nearly blind in his left eye, Faisal didn’t see the ball. His teammates froze in place, gazing at him sorrowfully. He turned away so they wouldn’t see him cry.

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