New Delhi: Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday told Parliament that only 53 people have suffered eye injuries from fired pellets in Kashmir, a statement that even belies the state government’s conservative figures on eye injuries.
On July 14, the state government said that 134 people had suffered eye injuries, mostly due to pellets. Since then, at least six-hundred people have suffered injuries in unabated use of live ammunition and pellets by government forces.
Rajnath Singh also told Parliament that only one person had died due to pellet injuries, though two persons have been confirmed dead by the SMHS hospital alone. Singh put the number of persons killed by others means, mainly due to bullets by armed forces and police, at 38.
Singh said that pellet guns, categorised as non-lethal, were used in 2010 as well when they killed six persons and caused eye injuries to 98, five of them blinded in both eyes.
He then announced that the government was considering alternatives to pellet guns.
“We will form a committee of experts. It will see to what non-lethal alternatives we can bring in place of pellet guns. It will give its report in two months,” Singh said.
“Use of lethal weapons is avoided to control mob. This is not for the first time that pellet weapon has been used. It was first deployed in 2010,” Singh said, replying to a debate in Lok Sabha on the current situation in Kashmir.
Singh said that Indian forces had been directed to exercise “maximum restraint”. Nevertheless, he said, if a mistake had been committed, it could not be denied.
In the same breath that he expressed sadness over loss of life, Singh said that “barbarism” can have no place in society. He cited instances of celebrations when CRPF personnel were killed.
India’s home minister said that in the current protests, 38 civilians have been killed, 2,180 injured with 2,055 of them having been discharged from hospitals. Unofficial figures put the number of civilians killed at over 45, three of whom were women, Singh said. A policeman had also died and 1,739 of them had suffered injuries, the minister said.
Internet was blocked but it is no longer so, he said, adding that the web was being used to inflame passions.