Paramilitary readies ‘non-lethal’ alternatives after criticism over pellet guns

The new riot control devices — long range acoustic devices, shock batons and use of hottest chilli (‘bhut jolokia of Assam’) — will be introduced by the paramilitary forces to maximise the use of ‘non-lethal’ ways to control the crowd in Jammu and Kashmir.

india Updated: Oct 01, 2017 08:37 IST
Azaan Javaid
Azaan Javaid
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Pellet guns in Srinagar,Use of pellet guns,What are pellet guns
Among weapons that are being currently tested are long-range acoustic devices, designed to frighten people with a high-pitched sound. A similar weapon was first designed by Israel, named The Scream.(AFP File Photo)

Stung by criticism for using pellet guns that left unarmed protesters blind, especially in Srinagar, paramilitary forces are now readying new crowd-control devices — long range acoustic devices (LRADs), sticky foam that immobilises people, shock batons and the world’s hottest chilli pepper, ‘bhut jolokia’ of Assam.

The weapons, currently under trial, are being introduced with the intent to boost the usage of “non-lethal” or “less lethal” technology to combat unrest, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, senior paramilitary officials told HT.

The weapons will be used by Rapid Action Force (RAF), the riot control specialist wing of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), as soon as the DRDO clears them. The RAF is, however, not deployed in Kashmir, and it will be the CRPF, responsible for peace-keeping in the Valley, that is likely to use the “less lethal” weapons, given that the defence and home ministry back these.

Among weapons that are being currently tested are long-range acoustic devices (LRAD), designed to frighten people with a high-pitched sound. A similar weapon was first designed by Israel, named “The Scream”. It has been used by the US forces in Iraq for crowd control.

Second on the list is the laser dazzler — a non-lethal intense ray of laser light that can cause temporary blindness. RAF is also likely to use ghost pepper or ‘bhut jolokia’ as the main component in chili grenades, which will replace PAVA shells that were also used mostly in Kashmir.

PAVA shells, considered an alternative to pellet guns, are made up of the organic compound found in natural chili pepper. It causes severe irritation to eyes officials said.

Security forces in Kashmir have received a lot flak from human rights groups that accuse them of excessive use of pellet guns against agitators in Kashmir in recent years.

Officials said ‘bhut jolokia’, which is found mostly in India’s north-eastern states, is likely to be used in pepper grenades to disperse crowds .The chili was once certified by Guinness World Records as the hottest in the world and is known to cause extremely painful burns when it comes in contact with skin.

It is already used by some paramilitary units in border states, and is being considered an alternative to PAVA shells as well as to pellet guns.

“Our strategy is minimum damage and maximum control. The new technology that is being tested will help our forces control riots and civil unrest effectively. At the same time it is our intent that no serious injury or damage is inflicted on protesting civilians,” KS Bhandari, IG, RAF, told HT.

RAF has also received proposals of other “less lethal weapons” from private defence equipment manufacturers. One of them is sticky foam. This, however, has not been tested yet, officials said.

“Sticky foam starts as a non-reactive liquid stored at high pressure. It is fired out of a backpack-mounted dispenser. When released, the atmospheric pressure causes it to expand and stick to people, significantly slowing down their movement,” a senior paramilitary official said.

While some of the weapons have been criticised at international forums as carrying risk of severe and long-lasting damage, particularly laser dazzlers, officials here said only instruments that do not violate human rights norms would be used.

Seema Dundia, DIG, RAF said the paramilitary has been particularly interested in using less lethal weapons. “Our motto is Serving Humanity with Sensitive Policing and we will ensure that our forces abide by our principles,” she claimed.

First Published: Oct 01, 2017 08:06 IST