Experts claim that there is no way of adequately controlling the trajectory of these shotguns beyond a limited range, which makes them inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate
SRINAGAR One of the most dangerous weapons used against protesters in Kashmir is the pellet-firing shotgun, the UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has said in its 49-page report which was released last week.
The pellet-firing shotgun, a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun, fires metal pellets and is deployed by the Central Reserve Police Force and the Jammu and Kashmir Police against protesters extensively during 2016 unrest, triggered by the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani.
According to human rights organizations, the shotgun cartridges contain 500 to 600 pellets that resemble ball bearings. The ammunition is made of lead alloy that is fired at a high velocity, thereby dispersing the metal pellets over a large area. Experts claim that there is no way of adequately controlling the trajectory of these shotguns beyond a limited range, which makes them inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate, the report says.
The pellet-firing shotgun was first used in Kashmir during mass protests in 2010 and it is not known to have been used against protesters anywhere else in India.
The Central Reserve Police Force, it says, claims the pellet-firing shotgun was the least lethal option they have at their disposal for crowd-control. However, it said, the pellet shotgun use by law enforcement agencies resulted in multiple deaths and serious injuries of hundreds civilians between 2016 and 2018. According to official figures presented in the Indian Parliament, 17 people were killed by pellet injuries between July 2016 and August 2017. As per information received by the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) from 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley, 1,726 people were injured by metal pellets in 2016 alone. In January 2018, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stated before the state assembly that 6,221 people had been injured by pellet guns in Kashmir between 8 July 2016 and 27 February 2017; among the victims, 728 had eye injuries. The Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti reported that 54 people suffered some form of visual impairment due to pellet injuries. Civil society organizations claim that the number of people partially or completely blinded due to pellet injuries is higher. A right to information query found that 16 personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police were also injured by pellet-firing shotguns. A few months after violent confrontations between protesters and security forces in Kashmir left over 100 people dead in the summer of 2010, it says. The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs commissioned a taskforce to produce standard operating procedures for the use of non-lethal measures in public agitations. The 12-gauge pellet-firing shotgun used in Kashmir was not listed in the Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Bureau of Police
Research and Development in March 2011. A right to information application seeking to know the efficacy and impact of the pellet shotgun was rejected by the authorities on the grounds that this was sensitive information related to national security. In February 2018, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs told the Parliament that a state-run laboratory had conducted tests on the impact of metal pellets but has not published the results.
In December 2016, the J&K High Court Bar Association petitioned the Supreme Court of India, seeking an immediate ban on the use of the pellet-firing shotgun.
Though a final verdict is awaited, the court observed during the hearing that it needed assurances from the authorities that pellet shotguns would not be used indiscriminately.
The central government told the Supreme Court it continued to use pellet shotguns because all other alternatives such as tear gas, chili-based chemical shells and rubber bullets had failed to stop the protesters. In March 2017, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs told the Parliament that an expert committee set up to explore alternatives to pellet shotguns had recommended the use of a chili-based munitions PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) shells, STUN-LAC (stun grenades and shells) and tear gas shells to disperse rioters. However, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs added that if these alternatives proved ineffective, security forces would resort to pellet shotguns.
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