According to a report in The Hindu, the Government Medical College, which runs the SMHS Hospital, has asked the administration to take action against CRPF personnel who have allegedly targeted medical staff. In a letter to the district development commissioner, GMC principal Qaiser Ahmed Koul said Mohammad Hanief Khan, a medical employee, had been thrashed by CRPF men on his way to work.

The Central Reserve Police Force has said charges made by the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar, where injured protesters have been pouring in for weeks now, are "baseless" and "totally false".

Ever since protests broke out in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death, there have been mounting allegations of security forces obstructing health services. The Doctors’ Association Kashmir have charged the CRPF with excesses such as stopping ambulances and beating up medical staff. According to a report published in the Hindustan Times on July 13, Kashmir’s director of health services, Saleem Ur Rehman, said around 50 ambulances had been damaged but he did not specify by whom.

"There is no point attacking any of the ambulances," said Rajesh Yadav, Commandant, 161 Battalion of the CRPF, responding to the allegations. "Our troops are part of a uniformed force, they understand their responsibility." But he also said it was "sometimes necessary" to stop and check ambulances.

"We have to check if there are stone pelters taking the ambulance to help pelters in other mohallas." explained Yadav. This was not being done on a regular basis but in some places. In most cases, ambulances carrying the injured had been allowed to pass, he said.

"It is very easy to blame the Central forces, particularly when you know the sentiment here," added Yadav.

Mounting charges

Similar allegations have emerged from hospitals across the Valley.

According to this report in Kashmir Reader, nearly half of the 150 ambulances owned by the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Science have been damaged, mostly by security forces. In one alleged incident, a SKIMS vehicle ferrying employees back home was attacked by CRPF personnel at Beehama, Ganderbal. The driver and at least six other employees were reportedly injured, while the local police stood by.

The medical superintendent and other staff at the Anantnag district hospital told that three of the five ambulances owned by the hospital had been attacked by the CRPF personnel who were apparently under the impression that the injured were stone throwers. Vehicles carrying patients to Srinagar had also been targeted.

Just days into the protests, a member of the staff at the Sub District Hospital in Bijbehara alleged that security forces had beaten up medical attendants and broken windows.

Similar attacks have been reported from the districts of Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam. Video and photographs shot by bystanders, apparently showing security forces stopping ambulances, pulling out men and beating them, have gone viral on social media platforms.

The police are reportedly looking into the authenticity of such footage.

What survivors say

Survivors have their own stories to tell. Sajad, an undergraduate student in Bijbehara, and Amir Nazir, a recent graduate from Delhi University, were put on an ambulance bound for Srinagar. Both had received bullets. In this report in The Wire, Sajjad recounts how their ambulance was stopped by the police, including an inspector rank officer, who beat up the two patients until he felt “we would not be alive” by the time the vehicle reached the hospital.

Sajjad lost consciousness and later survived a major operation. Nazir could not be saved, although he received several units of blood. Members of his family said the forces had torn off his infusion tubes when they attacked.

Another report published in the Caravan magazine recounts how almost all the patients at SMHS said their ambulances had been attacked on their way to Srinagar, some more than once. Doctors at SMHS said some of the critically injured would have survived if precious time had not been lost on the way to the hospital.