The army has recommended replacing pellet guns used by paramilitary forces and state police for crowd control in Kashmir with less lethal weapons such as sound cannons, pepper shotguns and chilli grenades.
Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said on Monday the recommendation was made to a Centre-appointed committee reviewing the use of pellet guns during month-long protests across Kashmir after the killing of a militant leader there.
Pellets have wounded thousands of protesters, especially children, and many of them were blinded for life, triggering outrage over the use of the weapon touted as non-lethal.
“Alternative non-lethal weapons are available to disperse crowds during demonstrations. The panel sought our inputs and we have suggested sonic weapons, pepper ammo and chilli grenades could be less harmful. The government is looking at these options,” said Hooda, the senior-most military commander in Jammu and Kashmir.
Sonic cannons, used by law-enforcement agencies worldwide, emit ultra-high frequency blasts that trigger ear-splitting sound to disperse mobs. Pepper guns fire plastic shells packed with pepper that explode on contact causing severe eye, nose and throat irritation.
Chilli grenades, developed by India’s military scientists, can cause more intense physical discomfort than pepper guns. A concentrate from one of the world’s hottest chillis, bhut jolokia or Naga chilli endemic to the Northeast, is used in these grenades.
Large parts of Kashmir have been under curfew since militant leader Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8. Hooda has ordered the deployment of more than 4,000 additional soldiers to hotspots in southern Kashmir to control the situation.
He said the unrest was being kept alive deliberately by internal and external elements, meaning separatists and Pakistan. “There’s anger among the youth, we can’t deny that. But the elements don’t want to see the state return to peace.”
Hooda blamed Pakistan for pushing militants into Kashmir to fuel the unrest.
“Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba have openly supported the protests. They will support it with terrorist activities,” he said. “The common man is suffering.”