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DAWN, 18 Nov, 2000
Kashmir autopsy doctor numbed by killings

By Sheikh Mushtaq

SRINAGAR: He slices open the chest of a bullet-riddled body lying on a brick-and-cement table, a blank look on his face. It is a grisly job, but Dr Mohammad Maqbool is used to it. The 50-year-old doctor has done autopsies on 10,000 bodies.

"I cut and stitch bodies like I cut or stitch cloth, I have to find out the cause of death. That's my job," he says.

Killings in occcupied Kashmir are often at the centre of controversy. Kashmiri Mujahideen and Amnesty International accuse the Indian army of killing civilians and committing large-scale human rights violations.

Indian authorities say that they investigate all complaints of human rights violations and punish those found guilty.

Maqbool, who conducts autopsies in Srinagar, says that he has to shut off his emotions. "I'm a normal human being but as soon I enter the room for an autopsy, God changes me, my heart turns to stone. I have no feelings, no emotions," he said.

Before he takes up his scalpel, the doctor faces Mecca, closes his eyes and whispers a prayer.

After he has completed the autopsy, he touches the feet of the body as a gesture of respect before it is wheeled out.

Once the autopsy is over, police perform the last rites for any unclaimed and unidentified people."The police control room has virtually turned into a mortuary," police official Nazir Ahmad said.

Maqbool has often single-handedly stitched together bodies blown into pieces by bombs or landmine explosions.

There are, however, moments when the normally hardened Maqbool finds it tough to do his work. Another colleague recalls a time last year when Maqbool broke down on seeing the crumpled bodies of two children, aged six and eight, brought in after a grenade explosion.

"When he (Maqbool) looked at their blood-soaked innocent faces, he cried: "I can't do it, I can't cut or open their bodies,'" he said.

Maqbool and his wife pray for an end to the occupation. "I don't know when our prayers will be answered, there is no end to the killings," he said.

Maqbool says that he has little time to spend with his son, daughter and wife because he often works around the clock. "I wish I were younger so that I could switch to another job," he said.-Reuters

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