HRW Urges India To End Use of Pellet Guns in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday asked Indian police and paramilitary forces to stop using pellet-firing guns in Kashmir as they cause ‘grievous injuries’.

“Time and again, Indian law enforcement’s use of shotguns in Kashmir has resulted in shocking, grievous injuries of protesters and bystanders,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at HRW. “Indian authorities need to recognise that this weapon fired into crowds, even with violent demonstrators, will invariably cause indiscriminate and excessive injury in violation of international standards.”

“Indian leaders who claim that their policies are improving the lives of Kashmiris cannot disregard that security forces are maiming, blinding, and killing people,” Ganguly said. “The Indian government should cease the use of shotguns firing metal pellets and review its crowd control techniques to meet international standards.”

In a statement, the organisation said that pellets have caused thousands of injuries, including loss of eyesight, since the shotguns were first deployed as an “ostensibly ‘non-lethal’ option” for crowd control, in 2010.

Expressed its concern, HRW said that though the small metal pellets, sometimes referred to as “birdshot” or “dove shot”, are concentrated in a tight pattern as they are fired, “the pellets spread out to create a constellation that can reach a wide radius, causing injuries indiscriminately, including to bystanders”.

HRW said while no accurate data on casualties from shotgun-fired pellets is available, at least 17 people were killed due to the use of pellet guns between 2015 and 2017. “According to the data journalism website IndiaSpend, pellets fired from shotguns blinded 139 people between July 2016 and February 2019. In January 2018, Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti told the state assembly that 6,221 people had been injured by pellets between July 2016 and February 2017 and among them, 782 people had eye injuries,” the statement adds.

In its statement, HRW pointed out that the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms “prohibit the use of those firearms and ammunition that cause unwarranted injury or present an unwarranted risk.”

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