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New crowd-control methods key to avoid bloodshed: experts

delhi Updated: Aug 01, 2010 10:02 IST

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With stone-pelting becoming an established mode in Kashmir agitations, experts feel there is a need for adopting newer crowd-control methods, including the use of advanced non-lethal weapons that could help contain riotous crowd without much bloodshed.

Kashmir has witnessed several deaths over the past one month during efforts by security personnel to quell violent protesters. About 20 people, mostly teenagers, have lost their lives allegedly in police firing and teargas shelling.

Experts feel this could have been avoided if the security forces have been equipped with advanced non-lethal weapons (NLWs) besides the teargas shells and rubber-bullets.

"There is always scope for innovation in every field and the security forces should also adopt newer crowd-control methods," said former BSF chief Prakash Singh.

"But, unfortunately our security forces don't have proper equipment to handle violence like in Kashmir," he said.

Echoing similar views, Ajai Raj Sharma, also a former BSF chief, said, "The basic equipment required for controlling crowd have not been provided or rather not procured."

He noted that in a Kashmir situation, what the forces urgently need is an armoured vehicle, in which they can rush towards the stone-pelting protesters without being hurt and catch some of them in quick time.

"But such a method has never been thought of," he rued.

However, both the retired officials differed to agree with the allegations that the handling of mobs in Kashmir has exposed the forces' inability to deal with such crisis.

"We should not judge our forces' ability, rather the focus should be on how to make them efficient. And equipping them with new sophisticated weapons could be a way towards that," Sharma said.

When it comes to crowd-control, security forces worldwide have undergone major changes from wearing protective gears to using most sophisticated weapons.

The protective equipment include top-class riot helmets, face visors, body armour (vests, neck protectors, knee pads), gas masks and riot shields.

But, in India, the security forces are provided with the same old riot-gears that include helmets, protective vests and bamboo shields among others, which experts say are not adequate.

"You can judge the effectiveness of those equipment from the number of injuries caused to the security forces recently in Kashmir," said Deba Ranjan Mohanty, a defence analyst at Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

According to reports, over 270 police and CRPF jawans have been injured in the stone-pelting incidents over the past one month in the Valley. The CRPF has reportedly inducted some new riot gears recently.