A group of 12 pellet victims from various districts of Kashmir with both of their eyes blinded assembled for a training workshop in assistive technologies for visually impaired here today. Over a year after their injuries caused by pellet-shot guns fired by the government forces in 2016, thick glasses have replaced the bundles of cotton pads on their eyes. Some of them have white foldable canes in their hands now. They struggle to make sense of the new gadgets introduced to them by the trainers at Help Foundation. These devices are meant to help them carry out their day to day activities with more ease.
However, more than these technologies, the group is moved by the thought of sharing their stories with many other people with similar stories.
“I felt good to talk to people here, laugh with them and realize that their lives have changed more or less in the same way as ours,” said Muhammad Asif Dar, a young pellet victim from Baramulla.
“Everyone here has undergone 5-7 surgeries and no one is able to see well still. I realized I am not the only unfortunate one,” he said.
However, not all pellet victims bubbled with joy at experience sharing.
Khalid Maroof a pellet victim from Budgam is unable to come to terms with the visual impairment. “Ask anyone in Budgam if they know Mr Budgam? Enjoying my life was not the only thing I did, I was the most helpful person in the entire district,” Maroof said.
“But now, to move around from one room to another, I have to seek help of someone,” he added.
Talking about his frustration with the visual disability following his pellet injury in September 2016, he said, “Now if someone asks me if I am the same Maroof who was running for Mr Kashmir competition, I reply, no. That Maroof is no more.”
Before the injury, Khalid was a plumber by profession, a student of class 12 and also a body-builder.
The training, part of a series organized by Revive Kashmir, a UK-based organization and Help Foundation attempts to instill “independence” in pellet victims and help them get back to normal lives.
The training also included group and individual counseling and orientation sessions. The group that underwent training consisted of 12 pellet victims, whose both eyes have been rendered visually impaired and a smaller group of people visually impaired due to an accident or by birth.
A trainer at the workshop, Abrar Ahmed Bhat, who is visually impaired said he volunteered at such workshops as he felt it was his duty to help other blind people.
“I became blind at the age of 18, due to a disease. However, I took control of my life and am now working in a bank. I want to tell these people, if I can do it, so can you,” he said. He however felt that avenues for education and training of visually impaired were limited in Kashmir and government and civil society was not doing anything to improve the scenario