Pellet Guns are Not Non Lethal

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On May 21, 2015 a 16 year old boy, Hamid Nazir Bhat, from Palhalan, Pattan, was grievously injured when he was shot by pellets fired by the police. The young boy has suffered injuries almost over his entire body and has also unfortunately lost vision in one eye. This is not the first time that pellets have been used by the police or the security forces in Kashmir. This method of combating protests was introduced during the Omar Abdullah Govt and was wrongly touted as a non lethal weapon. The reality is that there is nothing non lethal about the use of pellet guns against demonstrators, as several incidents in the past and the recent one in Palhalan have clearly demonstrated. The use of pellets have caused serious injuries to the victims In many cases, the victims have had grievous head injuries and also injuries in the eye.

The cartridges used in the valley in the pellet guns generally carry 400-500 plastic pellets which resemble ball bearings.  When used by the police or the security forces to quell a demonstration, they have often been used to deadly effect. The use of these guns has often come under severe criticism from the common Kashmiris as well as various human rights groups. The recent incident in Palhalan has again brought this issue into the limelight. Even Amnesty International has asked the State Govt to prohibit the use of pellet guns as a policing method against demonstrators, given their indiscriminate use. Shemeer Babu, Programme Director at Amnesty International, Indi, commenting on the use of pellet guns said, ‘’ the police have a duty to protect lives and safety and prevent violent crime. However in carrying out this duty they must as far as possible use non-violent means. When the use of force is unavoidable because of compelling reasons, it should be only what is strictly necessary and to the extent required’’.

It is common knowledge not only in Kashmir but outside the valley as well, that security forces enjoy complete impunity for their actions, which may be many times unjustified, unwarranted and not commensurate with what the situation demands. Not only do they enjoy impunity, but in many cases, they have even been rewarded for their actions. The use of pellet guns was introduced, when the previous Govt drew severe criticism for its handling of civilian protests during the summers of 2008, 2009 and 2010 in which hundreds of young protesters were killed owing to large scale use of violence by the police and the security forces. These deaths of protesters occurred due to the indiscriminate use of bullets by the forces. Pellet guns were introduced, apparently with a view that they are non lethal. But the reality in Kashmir has proved otherwise. It is time that the Govt bans the use of pellet guns by the forces.  

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