The latest orgy of violence and the counter narrative of violence by the state that has descended upon Kashmir has not only exacted a toll in terms of lives lost but also lives destroyed. The reference here is to the use of pellet guns by the police and paramilitary forces and the shooting range of these guns. Most of victims shot by pellet guns have been shot above the chest and many pellets have hit the eyes of victims- damaging in the process either partially or completely their ability to see. Pellet guns were, it may be stated here, by the police in /after the 2010 protests as a means or way out of taking recourse to lethal force. However, as doctors attending upon the victims state, use of pellet guns and their impact upon victims is humungous: these not only potentially make victims lose their eyes sight but also scars them and destroys their ability to function as normal members of society. The impact then is both immediate and distant. In the sense of the immediate, a victim is impaired and in the sense of the distant, the families are impacted and this means there is a social impact.
Why then use pellet guns if the impact is deleterious and rife with negative consequences? And why aim above the chest where the potential for damage is maximum?
The answer may lie in the states fear and need to minimize body counts and fatalities. This then is a cynical motive. The state wants body count to be minimized but does not care about the damage caused by pellets. While the state may have, by taking recourse to pellet guns, reduced the number of fatalities, but the damage, often times permanent, it caused through the use of pellet guns has grown immensely. For the sake of argument or hypothetically speaking, if it is conceded that pellet guns may be used to minimize casualties, then why do security personnel fire above the chest? The answer may be that it is either their reflex given their training or that in the heat of the moment, spurred by anger and revenge, they want to inflict maximum harm to the victims- permanent long term damage so that the victims remember for the rest of their lives.
Whatever the reason(s), pellet guns too have proven to be harmful and damage causing weapons. A weapon is a weapon. In the final analysis, as the pro gun lobby in the US says, it is not weapons that kill but people. Give weapons in the hands of humans whether they are agents of the state or plain people, murders and violence will happen. What then is the solution given the recurrent pattern of conflict in Kashmir? The answer neither lies in pellet guns nor force nor other military or policing measures. The solution, which will nip the issue in the bud, is something that KO has always stood for and rooted: resolve the conflict in and over Kashmir to the satisfaction and interests of all stakeholders- especially Kashmiris. Nothing short of this will suffice and if a conflict resolution paradigm that is a stakeholder approach is adopted , it will give short shrift to violence and lead to an ambiance where recourse to force- in whatever form- will become superfluous.
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