Amnesty International starts campaign to end usage of pellet guns in Kashmir
The widespread use of the weapon during the unrest in the Valley last year killed several people and blinded thousands.india Updated: Sep 13, 2017 18:24 IST
Rights body Amnesty International on Wednesday called for an end to the “dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate” usage of pellet-guns by security forces when controlling crowds in strife-torn Jammu and Kashmir as it released a report on the controversial weapon.
Amnesty International’s report “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns”- designed with photographs of blinded pellet victims - presented the cases of 88 people whose eyesight has been damaged by pellets between 2014 and 2017.
The widespread use of the weapon during the unrest in the Valley last year killed several people and blinded thousands after violence broke out during protests sparked by the death of a Hizbul Mujahiddin militant, Burhan Wani. Data from Kashmir’s hospitals show over 6000 people had suffered pellet injuries, with over 1100 specifically hit in the eyes, during the 2016 unrest.
“In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that change in Kashmir will not come from guns or abuses - na goli, na gali. If the government truly means this, they must end the use of pellet-firing shotguns, which have caused immense suffering in Kashmir,” Aakar Patel, executive director of Amnesty International India, said in a statement.
“Authorities claim the pellet shotgun is not lethal, but the injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is. There is no proper way to use pellet-firing shotguns. It is irresponsible of authorities to continue the use of these shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do,” Patel added.
The body also launched a campaign urging chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and Union home minister Rajnath Singh to immediately end the use of the pellet-firing shotguns in the restive state.
“Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution,” said Patel.
“Security forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protesters by means that allow for better targeting or more control over the harm caused,” he added.
Amnesty officials said they have obtained information through right to information applications, which suggests that the use of the inherently inaccurate pellet-firing shotguns by security forces has injured other security force personnel.
Home minister Singh, who ended a four-day visit to Kashmir on Tuesday, said in Srinagar the weapon was being used very sparingly by security forces.
“Last year, we looked into the alternatives to pellet guns and introduced PAVA (grenades). Though it was not very effective, the pellet guns have been used less compared to earlier,” he said on Monday.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court expressed concern over the pellet gun injuries suffered by minors, who indulged in stone pelting in Jammu and Kashmir, and asked the Centre to consider other effective means to quell the protests as it concerns “life and death”.