Srinagar 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 Internationals 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.
Releasing a report titled, Losing Sight in Kashmir, The Impact of Pellet Guns at a local hotel in Srinagar, Director Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel denounced stone pelting and said that Amnesty does not approve of the violence, however, he said, if violence takes place anywhere that does not legitimise the use of pellet guns.
He said the pellet guns are only used in Jammu and Kashmir and not at any place in mainland India. We have raised the issue with the government and it has assured us that the pellet guns will be used in extreme situations. Government understands that the damage caused by the pellets is disproportionate.
Patel said that Amnesty has been working on Kashmir for long. We have been working in Kashmir for a very long time. Since 1989, no case or FIR registered against forces has been acted upon.
Govt of Jammu and Kashmir and Police and sent the files to the MHA and MoD but it has not reverted.
He said that the union government should respond and clarify whether they will run a trail against the culprits in a civilian court or not. This is our demand, he said.
He called on the union government and government of Jammu and Kashmir to immediately stop the use of pellet-firing shotguns and ensure that the use of all other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on use of force. Authorities should also provide full reparation in line with international standards to those injured by pellet-firing shotguns and to the families of those killed.
The Government of Jammu and Kashmir should also initiate prompt, independent and impartial civilian investigations into all incidents where the use of pellet-firing shotguns led to deaths or injuries to establish whether arbitrary or excessive force was used, and where sufficient evidence is found, prosecute those suspected of responsibility in civilian courts, Patel said.
Meanwhile, the report presents the cases of 88 people whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired from pump-action shotguns used by the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) between 2014 and 2017.
Authorities claim the pellet shotgun is not lethal, but the injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bears 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 said.
Sabroza, injured by pellet-firing shotguns said that she has faced serious physical and mental health issues, including symptoms of psychological trauma. I face difficulties during my studies and my memory has become very dull. Despite surgeries, I have not been able to regain my eyesight, she said.
Zahoor Wani said that in some cases, those injured by pellet-firing shotguns still have the metal pellets lodged in their skulls, near their eyes. Doctors have been afraid to remove the pellets, fearing that it will affect eyesight, but they are not sure what the long-term effects will be, the Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India said.
Unfortunately the central government has turned down requests for information about pellet shotguns. It is unclear if the shotguns have been properly tested, or their effects and risks assessed, or whether there is even any protocol about how they must be used. The government of Jammu and Kashmir has done little to support those injured and disabled by this weapon, he noted out.
Zahoor said that they have also obtained information through Right to Information applications suggesting that the use of the inherently inaccurate pellet-firing shotguns by forces has injured other forces personnel. At least 16 personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police were treated for pellet injuries in Kupwara in 2016. Amnesty International India has also written to JKP and CRPF for further information, but have not received responses.
Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution, said Patel. Forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protestors by means that allow for better targeting or more control over the harm caused.
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