SRINAGAR: There has been no discontinuation of the use of pellet guns in Kashmir despite media reports from New Delhi suggesting that the expert committee constituted by the Indian Home Ministry has called for their replacement with “Pava” grenades.
Even Rajnath Singh, the Indian Home minister during the second of his three visits to Srinagar in less than a month, said that an alternative ‘non-lethal’ weapon to pellet guns would soon be introduced in Kashmir, which the Delhi media is now claiming to have already been introduced: the chilli-filled Pava grenades.
Some news reports quoting “sources” have revealed that pellet guns would not be replaced though they would be used sparingly in “rarest of the rare” situations.
To clear the air, the J&K high court last week asked Assistant Solicitor General of India (ASGI) to reveal within three days the report of the panel which was constituted on July 26 to “explore the other possible alternatives to pellet guns as non-lethal weapon.”
“I have already written a letter (to the concerned counters) and its reply is awaited,” the ASGI told Kashmir Reader on Friday.
The picture would be clear only once the report by the committee is put out in public domain. A key member of the panel had opposed discontinuing the use of pellet guns before the panel. He has actually submitted a report to home ministry putting a question mark on the whole exercise.
In an affidavit filed before the J&K high court on August 13, CRPF’s inspector general Atul Karwal had stated that in case the pellet guns were withdrawn from “available options”, “CRPF personnel would have no recourse but to open fire with rifles which may cause more fatalities.”
Karwal was one among seven members of the panel headed by TVSN Prasad, joint secretary to the Prime Minister, Ministry of Home Affairs. The other members of the panel are Rajeev Krishna, IG (ops) BSF, Rajesh Kumar (IPS, JKP), Tushar Tripathy (IOFS, DDG small arms OFB), Manjit Singh (Director TBPL Chandigarh) and Naresh Bhatnagar (professor IIT Delhi).
At present, several ‘non-lethal’ weapons are in possession of paramilitary forces and those put to use so far, as per records, include tear smoke shell, stun shell, stun grenades, rubber bullet, tear smoke grenade, plastic pellets, pump action gun 12 Bore Cartridge (pellet gun), oleoresin grenade, dye marker grenade, stinger grenade, hot Pava 30xX projectile (pepper ball), electric shell and blank cartridge.
At least 10 persons have already died and thousands have been wounded due to the pellet guns which in official parlance remains a non-lethal weapon to deal with crowds.
The number of dead due to pellets is higher than those killed by them in 2010. As per Home Ministry figures, six persons were killed and 198 injured due to pellet guns in 2010 in Kashmir.