Inequality of suffering: Why images of Kashmir’s pellet victims have failed to evoke India’s empathy

The suffering of Kashmiri Muslims is suspect because their very humanity is suspect.

Why are we moved by some images and not others?

On November 28, Hiba Nisar, a 20-month old girl from Shopian in Kashmir, was hit by pellets while her mother and siblings were fleeing their home after it became clouded with teargas smoke. Tragically, despite undergoing surgery, she might still lose eyesight in her right eye.

Since the summer of 2016, when the militant commander Burhan Wani’s killing by the Indian armed forces sparked mass protests across Kashmir, over 17,000 Kashmiris have been critically injured and hundreds permanently or partially blinded. Photographs of wounded, blinded and maimed Kashmiris have circulated in the media. Most of the injuries have been caused by weapons labelled “non-lethal”: lead pellets fired from pump action guns, commonly referred to as pellet guns, or rubber pellets from anti-riot guns. When fired from a pump action gun, pellets can cause severe organ damage or disfigurement, even death.


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