Non-lethal weapons never found favour with security forces in Valley
A home ministry panel set up after the 2010 street protests in Jammu and Kashmir, too, had come up with a long list of non-lethal weapons that could be used to disperse violent protesters without causing deaths.india Updated: Aug 30, 2016 18:38 IST
The use of pellet guns in the Valley may have led to calls for less harmful methods of crowd-control but it is not new.
A home ministry panel set up after the 2010 street protests in Jammu and Kashmir, too, had come up with a long list of non-lethal weapons that could be used to disperse violent protesters without causing deaths.
From stink and chilli grenades to acoustic devices that disorient protesters, the 2010 panel –like the one that submitted its report to home minister Rajnath Singh on Monday – had listed 10 non-lethal weapons that forces could use to control mobs.
The list, which became part of the standard operating procedure for handling street protests across the country, however, did not find favour with the security forces.
These weapons were found to be ineffective against the stone-pelting crowds that the forces encountered in the Valley.
The pump action gun, which fires cartridges containing hundreds of metal pellets and has come to symbolise Delhi’s strong-arm tactics in the Valley, wasn’t on the list. But it was in use well before the panel gave its report in February 2011.
K Vijay Kumar, who then headed the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), said the pellet guns were introduced to minimise casualties, particularly after more than 100 civilians were killed in police firing in 2010, the Valley’s bloodiest summer.
“It was certainly a less-lethal option as compared to the Insas rifle that the central forces had used,” Kumar said.
A senior CRPF official said there were reservations about the efficacy of the non-lethal options proposed by the panel, as many felt that the crowds on Kashmir’s streets were too determined for them.
The assessment was also influenced by the view that the security forces had already made a concession to violent protesters by introducing the pump action gun.
The pellet gun – also deployed along the Indo-Bangladesh border – has always been classified as a “non-lethal weapon” by the home ministry.
But after several people suffered serious injuries, many to their eyes, in the latest cycle of violent protests in the Valley, the focus is back on the pellet gun.
The alternatives are few. The CRPF recently told the Jammu and Kashmir high court that fatalities would mount if pellet guns were to be banned, as it would have to use bullets when faced with hostile crowds.
A senior police officer said it was unlikely that the pellet gun would be phased out any time soon and it should co-exist with, say, the stink bombs.
“The pellet gun would be the weapon of choice, where I would, otherwise, have had to use a rifle,” he said. “Just because there was a pellet gun did not mean that the police did not carry regular firearms, or did not use them”.
Security personnel needed a mix of weapons -- to enable them to use the best weapon to deal with a particular situation, he said, confident that the government would soon deploy some new non-lethal weapons in Kashmir.
The Valley erupted in protest after a militant was killed in a gunfight with security forces in south Kashmir on July 8. Seventy people died in clashes with security personnel and it was after 51 days on Monday that curfew was lifted from most parts of Kashmir.