Srinagar: Days after Home Minister Rajnath Singh said he will look for alternatives to pellet guns to control the protesters in Kashmir, it has been learnt that there is no plan by the government to stop the use of the guns for now. A Home Ministry panel has recommended that while chilli pepper-filled balls (PAVA shells) are an effective non-lethal way to control mobs, there should not be any ban on pellet guns which should be reserved for emergency measures.
It has also suggested the use of chilli-pepper grenades in Jammu and Kashmir. "It was believed in 2010 that the pellet gun is a non-lethal weapon that does not do much damage. But today, we feel that there should be some alternative to pellet guns," he had said, adding that "the expert committee report will be out soon and we will find an alternative to pellet guns."
The use of pellet guns in Jammu and Kashmir has been widely debated, where the death toll in the unrest, which began on 8 July after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has crossed 65. Tiny pieces of metal shrapnel employed by police in Kashmir are causing havoc in the state. Known widely as pellet guns, these have been employed by police as a crowd control measure since 2010.
The Opposition criticised the Centre many times, both inside and outside the Parliament, over the use of pellet guns by security forces in the Valley and has demanded a ban on them. Kashmir Congress had welcomed Rajnath Singh's statement on Thursday that an alternative to pellet guns would be found.
These guns can hold up to 500 pellets, which are reportedly less lethal than bullets, even if they do cause equally serious injuries — especially to the eyes. Doctors in Srinagar on 10 August had staged a silent protest by covering one eye with a bandage to represent those victims who have been blinded due to pellets.
On the other hand, the CRPF had informed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court that if pellet guns are banned as a crowd control measure, its personnel will be forced to fire bullets in extreme situations, which can cause more fatalities. "In case, this (pellet gun) is withdrawn from the options available with the CRPF, CRPF personnel would have no recourse in extreme situations but to open fire with rifles, which may cause more fatalities," the CRPF had said in an affidavit submitted to the high court.
The CRPF had also said that following the standard operating procedures while dealing with a dynamic law and order problem is difficult in case of moving, bending and running target. The standard operating procedure regarding use of firearms for crowd control in extreme situations requires that the weapon be aimed below the waist. "But the situation prevailing on the streets during an ongoing law and order incident is dynamic and mobile. In such a situation, sometimes it is difficult to go in for precise aimed fire at a moving, bending and running target," it had said.
The CRPF had said it has fired around 3,500 pellet cartridges from 9 July to 11 August during violence by protesters in the valley. Home Minister Rajnath Singh is likely to lead the all-party delegation which will visit Jammu and Kashmir on 3 September even as the state continues to be on edge.