The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Thursday served notices to state home ministry and senior police officials to restrain excessive use of non-lethal pepper guns against protesters in civilian population in Kashmir.
"Stone throwing is nothing new to Kashmir. We have been observing it for past five decades. A group of dozens of youngsters involved in stone pelting could be dealt in a manner which would not endanger health of old, infant and pregnant women," said justice Fida Hussain in his notice served to commissioner secretary home and director general of police where they have been asked to submit their view point over the issue of using hazardous non-lethal weapons like pepper guns.
"For a sin of dozen of youngsters, thousands peace loving people could not be punished and their rights violated in any circumstance," said justice Hussain.
The judge was hearing the petition filed by Human Rights Forum, headed by Ahsan Untoo, where he complained that the police used heavy quantity of pepper gun November 25, 2011.
"Residents of Nowhatta, Safakadal, Nawakadal, Rajori Kadal and the adjoining area were subjected to huge torture. Infants and elderly persons got unconscious after inhaling the pepper gas," said Untoo.
"The police are deliberately using the pepper gas to kill people silently in the valley," he alleged in the complaint.
The human rights body has cited the study of well-known science writer Deborah Blum conducted in 2004 on pepper spray. "Spray can produce respiratory, cardiac, and neurological problems," says the study.
Quoting local doctors in Srinagar, Untoo claimed that pepper gas causes eye sight problem among infants and minors. "It can also cause dysentery, sever chest infection among elders and can lead to tuberculosis and asthma. The gas is highly harmful for pregnant woman," Untoo quoted the doctors.
Taking notice of the argument, Justice Hussain said, "If experts and doctors opinion is taken into consideration, it is a serious violation of human rights. Life is precious and right to life is a fundamental right," said the judge.
After three consecutive years of street protests, starting in 2008 following the Amarnath land row, the state police procured non-lethal weapons to tackle protesters. Around 200 people, mainly youngsters, died since 2008 in street protests.
The move to use non-lethal weapons this year was made to decrease casualty rate during protests following expert committee suggestions in New Delhi.
The non-lethal weapons include Taser guns, pellets and pepper balls. The US-made Taser guns discharges nine-volt current to momentarily immobilize a protester. The pepper balls discharges highly irritating fumes and the Pump Action Gun (PAG) fire pellets at the protesters, which will not cause any deaths. The weapons were incorporated in August last year immediately after more than 60 were killed between June 11 and August. Around 113 were killed in the summer unrest in the valley in 2010.