That Fateful day in 2010 in Sopore'.
SOPORE: For four and a half years, Mohammad Amir Kanna, a 20 year old boy from a poor family of Sopore town has lain motionless in a corner of his dim lit room with his mouth open but speechless. Amir is one of the thousands of Kashmiri youth who have been maimed after being tortured, beaten brutally or fired at by the security forces. Amir has not only lost the ability of speech but the ability to walk as well.
“This room is like a prison for Amir. For the past four years, he has never seen the outside world. It is just a place to rot for him,” says the boy who led me up to Amir’s room.
Doctors have said that Amir may never speak and walk again after he incurred a traumatic injury to the frontal lobe region of his brain when a policeman catapulted a teargas shell straight to his head in the turbulent summer of 2010, when a series of protest demonstrations rocked the entire Valley.
Against many odds, Amir survived, but not without serious physical damage. He went from being fully able bodied to being completely paralysed from the neck down. Once a charming, outspoken, active boy, Amir has turned into a handicapped, tight-lipped young man.
Since the incident took place, Amir has remained still in a dark corner of his room, around the clock. For five long years, the small window of his room has been his only connection to the outside world.
With eyes that can cry no more, Amir gazes out at the street through a small window of his room, where children rush to school every morning.
“He get depressed and emotionally upset when he sees his friends going to school every day. Although he cannot speak in words his body language and facial expressions tell everything. He was always enthusiastic about studies. He would never remain absent from school,” says his Mother, who spends most of her time in taking care and consoling her son.
Amir’s family has already been facing a series of difficulties because of the extreme poverty. But the sudden death of his father at an early age was a huge tragedy for teenager Amir, because all the family responsibilities fell on his shoulders. His father, Mohammad Shafi Kana was suffering from bipolar disorder, and was going through terrible depression that had resulted in his death.
Worrying about his financial situation, Amir had taken a job of salesman in a local shop with the specific purpose to pull his family out of financial problems.
“After Amir lost his father, he started caring for his elderly mother and two unmarried sisters. He worked as a salesman to support his family and also continued his studies”, said his uncle, Abdul Salaam, as he dissolved bread in a little water on a teaspoon and forced it gently into Amir’s mouth.
Amir’s Mother recalls the day of the year 2010, when the angry protesters outside their home disturbed the placid ambience of the evening. She still trembles while speaking of the frightening siren of the ambulance in which Amir was taken to the hospital.
“It was evening time and I was as usual busy in household chores, when some people gathered in our lawns chanting slogans against police. I came out and saw an ambulance in which Amir was lying in a pool of blood and then rushed to the hospital with him,” says his mother.
Doctors in SKIMS hospital, where Amir was taken, performed multiple surgeries on him but to no avail. Amir fell into a coma and remained in a vegetative state for almost two months. His condition grew worse and eventually he lost all ability to move, speak and make eye contact.
“When the patient was brought, he was in an extremely bad condition. The teargas shell had caused a deep hole in the right side of his head thereby damaged the brain and spinal cord at a high level that resulted in Tetraplegia,” say the doctors who treated him then.
“We were told that it was unlikely that Amir would walk and speak again and he would probably remain paralysed from the neck down. Doctors said that he would have to spend the next 6-8 weeks in bed, motionless to allow his head to heal” Says Abdul Salaam.
Four and a half years have passed, Amir still lies motionless and speechless on his bed. His mother and two sisters have not recovered from the trauma as yet.
“I was shocked when doctors said that he would remain paralyzed. Amir had a goal to save enough for the marriage of his two sisters. Now all our hopes were dashed to the ground” , say his mother while closing the lid of a box stuffed with the medicine.
Imprisoned in his own body and incapable of moving or communicating with those around him, Amir seemed to be hearing and understanding all that his mother was saying. A choked cry forced itself up his throat, and a tear drop trickled down his cheek.
One of the biggest challenges for the family was to meet the cost of his treatment. They sold everything their owned, and yet ran into deep debt.
“We have been drained by the cost of treatment, but we don’t want to give up, we will continue to his treatment whatever the cost,” says Amir’s sister.
The doctors have suggested another surgery outside Kashmir. The family cannot afford this at the moment but remain in the hope of a miracle.