187 people have died in littered shell explosions in Jammu and Kashmir since 2002, out of which 93 have been minors.

Playgrounds of death How littered-shell explosions are destroying Kashmiri familiesMuzamil Reshi, 14, at his home with his mother Maimoona Reshi and Mohammed Shafi Reshi, uncle of Adil and Shakir Reshi.
news Ground Report Friday, December 18, 2015 - 22:20

(Warning: Some pictures in this story can be disturbing)

Fourteen-year-old, Muzamil Reshi has not been to school for over four months. Unlike other children in the village, he doesn’t go out to play with his friends. He, in fact, refuses to leave his house. But he was not always like this.

On August 5, Muzamil and his two cousins Adil Reshi and Shakir Reshi were playing in their village, Baba Salin, on the hill locks near picturesque Manasbal Lake in Ganderbal district of Kashmir when they found a littered mortar shell. Unwittingly they started playing with it. The shell exploded, killing 10-year-old Adil on the spot. The blast was so powerful, it ripped apart Adil's body. 

Both Muzamil and Shakir were also critically injured. Shakir succumbed to his injuries in the hospital later that day.

The incident, however, is not an anomaly in the conflict-torn region of Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier in April this year, 14-year-old Parvaz Ahmed Khan was killed when a grenade he found outside his home in Baramulla district in North Kashmir went off. Parvaz was critically injured in the blast. He was taken to a hospital, but the injuries proved fatal.

In another similar incident in September, 12-year-old Junaid Ahmed Dar of Ladoora Rafiabad of Baramulla district was killed when he stepped on an explosive device left behind at the encounter site between army and militants.

This year, six minors have been killed in littered shell explosions so far. According to a report compiled by Public Commission on Human Rights, 187 people have died in littered shell explosions in Jammu and Kashmir since 2002, out of which 93 have been minors. The same report puts the number of injured in such incidents over 200.

 The only picture Reshi family has of their two sons Adil and Shakir Reshi

“We went out to play. All three of us climbed on a rock. Adil found something like a steel pipe (Mortar Shell). We thought we could open it. Adil smashed it on the rock a few times, then Shakir did the same and there was a loud noise. That’s all I remember,” says Muzamil, who is visibly still in a shock from the incident.

Doctors performed two emergency surgeries on Muzamil to remove the splinters from his head and chest. But they couldn’t remove all of them. He has to undergo another surgery to remove the remaining splinters from his skull.

While Muzamil has somewhat recovered from the physical injuries after spending a month on the hospital bed. But the mental scars from the incident still haunt him every day.

His mother Maimoona says, he has become a quiet child after the incident. “He doesn’t talk much and keeps looking through the window all day. He is scared of leaving the house and can’t even sleep at night. He even refuses to go to school now.”

While Maimoona can take some relief from the fact that Muzamil survived the blast, Rubiya Reshi, who lost both her sons Adil and Shakir in the explosion still hasn’t been able to come to terms with the tragedy. 

She has fallen into depression and has confined herself to her room. Her family members are now worried about her mental state and have tried everything to help her to come out of the shock

“How can a mother come to bear the loss of her two children? All we can do now is pray to god to give her strength. Both of them were the youngest in the family and everyone loved them,” says Mohammed Shafi Reshi, Rubiya’s brother-in-law.  

Watch Maimoona Reshi narrate the events of the day Adil lost his life to an explosion

According to army officials, ammunition that fail to fire or explode can remain active for few days. But in some cases, it takes quite some time before becoming become passive and can explode for various reasons.

Mehran Khan, Project Manager at Handicap International that has been raising awareness about littered shells and landmines in J&K believes the numbers could be much higher. 

He says the issue of littered shells is a grave matter of concern and despite the high number of casualties over the years, the government has failed to take any action to prevent a repeat of such incidents. “The government should come forward with a high-level action plan to tackle the problem. It has to take some responsibility otherwise more innocent lives will be lost,” he says.

Photo Credit Durdana Bhat.

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