The Big Story: Operation theatres

On February 6, militants opened fire on a police party accompanying prisoners for a medical check up at the outpatient department at Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital in Srinagar. Within moments, two policemen were shot and one of the prisoners, a Pakistani Lashkar-e-Taiba operative arrested in 2014, had escaped. Later, the two policemen died. Now the Jammu and Kashmir government says an investigation has been launched and the opposition alleges a “security lapse”. The Hizbul Mujahideen, meanwhile, claims it engineered the raid to help the militant escape. Has either side registered the true horror of the incident? A hospital, the last bastion of refuge for the injured and the ailing, was breached.

Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital is a landmark in Srinagar. It is one of the few multi-speciality hospitals in Kashmir, which is desperately short of specialised healthcare, and has arguably the “best trauma centre” in the Valley. Not only does it get patients from all over Srinagar, it is also an important referral hospital for the rest of the Valley. During the protests of 2016, its wards filled up with hundreds of young patients injured by the pellets used by security forces. This is not the first time the hospital has been under siege. A health reporter who was there on the morning of the shootout writes that it reminded him of a day in 2016, when security forces had fired tear gas shells inside the hospital. Throughout the protests, there were also repeated allegations that ambulances were stopped and passengers beaten up by security forces, that patients on their way to receive critical care could not reach in time.

In the long and grinding Kashmir conflict, there are few rules of engagement that are left to be broken. Yet the attack on hospitals and the obstruction of medical care crosses a vital red line. The Geneva Conventions lay down rules for establishing “hospital and safety zones” where the wounded, the sick, the aged and the very young might find refuge from the effects of war. These guidelines have been absorbed into military manuals across the world. Yet the most brutal conflicts in recent times have been marked by attacks on these very places: in Sri Lanka during the last gasp of the civil war in 2009, in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Unlike these places, Kashmir’s hospitals must not become battle zones.

The Big Scroll

Back in 2016, the CRPF said it was “sometimes necessary to check if ambulances are being used by stone pelters”.

Fahad Shah visited a hospital in Anantnag, where the injured were being treated during the protests of 2016.


1, In the Indian Express, Happymon Jacob asks whether violence on the Line of Control could escalate into a full-fledged war.

2. In the Hindu, Zorawar Daulet Singh asks whether being a democracy has shaped India’s approach to the Maldives.

3. In the Economic Times, Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera question the estimate of $11 billion in savings from Aadhaar.


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