Srinagar: Notwithstanding its official definition as a “non-lethal weapon” and calls for a ban by the Amnesty International on its use during demonstrations, pellets continue to cause serious injuries to people, especially the youth in Kashmir Valley.
Information accessed from two hospitals in Srinagar through Right to Information query has revealed that 64 persons have suffered pellets wounds last year. Of the 41 persons who have suffered eye injuries, two have lost vision in both eyes and three others in one eye.
According to the RTI reply from SKIMS Medical College-Hospital Bemina, 16 patients with pellet injuries were admitted from 1 January to 31 December 2015.
“Nine patients had eye injuries and seven of them were operated upon at the eye ward during the same period,” deputy medical superintendent of the hospital said in a reply to the RTI filed by Manan Bukhari, head of human rights cell of Hurriyat Conference (M).
“Two patients lost eyesight in both eyes, three lost eye sight in one eye and one patient recovered partial eye sight,” the reply said.
The information provided by the SMHS Hospital, Srinagar, says that 48 patients with pellet injuries were treated at the Emergency Department from October 2014 to November 2015 and 42 of them were admitted to the Hospital.
The Department of Ophthalmology, Government Medical College, which oversees the running of the SMHS Hospital, said that 32 patients with pellet gun injuries needed surgeries.
“All 32 patients were discharged after a few days of hospitalisation. However, these patients didn’t turn up for follow up. So the exact number of persons who lost their eyesight or whose eyesight was impaired is not known,” the reply said.
A number of youth hit by pellets evaded treatment in Valley Hospitals to escape arrests and persecution by police, Manan Bukhari said.
In the past few years, the government forces have been firing the “non-lethal” pellets at protesters across the Valley.
Quoting a police officer, a leading Chennai-based newspaper had reported that one cartridge contains 400-500 pellets, resembling ball bearings. They come in grades of five to 12, five being the largest, fastest and with the widest range. “Though written instructions have been given to use the number 9 pellet for crowd control, as it does not cause lasting damage, the directive isn’t followed. In villages, we see number 6 and 7 pellets being used regularly,” the police officer said.
International rights watchdog Amnesty International last year said asked the Jammu and Kashmir government to prohibit the use of pellet-firing shotguns in policing demonstrations, saying they are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate.
“Several cases have been reported of people suffering serious injuries, particularly eye injuries, as a result,” the AI said after Hamid Nazir Bhat, a teenager, lost vision in one eye after being showered with pellet ammunition in Palhalan on May 21, 2015.