Calls for absolute ban, civil investigation, rehab and compensation to victims
Srinagar: Calling for a civil investigation into the cases of pellet-gun firing by government forces in Kashmir, the Amnesty International on Wednesday said that neither the Government of India nor the J&K Government has informed when the use of pellet guns will be stopped in Kashmir.
The international rights body revealed that the governments in Srinagar and Delhi do “accept the idea that the use of pellet-firing on protestors in Kashmir should be minimised”.
“The Amnesty International calls for a civil investigation (into the use of pellet gun in Kashmir) to establish whether arbitrary force was used,” said Shalesh Rai, member of Amnesty International India, during the release of a report on people injured in their eyes by pellets in Kashmir since 2014 to 2017. The report is titled, “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns”.
The report is the first comprehensive study on the victims injured in the eye by shotgun pellets in Kashmir. Rai said that they started working on the report this year and have documented 88 cases in it.
Asserting that the use of pellet-firing shotguns should be immediately stopped, the Amnesty International said that authorities should “ensure that the use of other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on the use of force”.
“The pellet gun violates the international human rights standards,” said Rai. “The shotguns fire a large number of small pellets that spread over a wide range. There is no way to control the trajectory or direction of the pellets, whose effects are, therefore, indiscriminate. By their very nature, the weapons have a high risk of causing serious and permanent injuries to the persons targeted as well as to others (bystanders). These risks are virtually impossible to control.”
“The degree of possible harm (to the protestor) should be proportionate to the use of force,” he said, “(but) there have been serious injuries, loss of vision… (which) shows (it) is not proportionate.”
Recommending “less harmful ways” to tackle stone-throwing protestors in Kashmir, the Amnesty International said that the statement of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) that protests (in Kashmir) “were threat to their personnel” was “misleading”. “It is not just,” Rai said of the statement made by the CRPF’s top officer in Kashmir.
Rai said it was worrying th at the government had denied information on pellet guns. “We have filed RTIs but there has been no (more) information about the 12-bore pump-action gun,” he said.
Advocating a complete ban on use of pellet guns, the Amnesty International team led by Aakar Patel sought compensation and rehabilitation for its victims. “It is a cruel weapon,” said Rai. “The victims have been suffering from mental, psychological issues which need proper (medical) aid.”
On working in sensitive areas like Kashmir, Aakar Patel said, “(It) has been difficult to work in Kashmir but (such) has been the case in other places as well.”
“We will not back off,” said Rai. “We’ll continue (with the) work.”
A Srinagar-based activist, Zahoor Wani, said on the occasion that information collected by AI was essentially through RTI (Right to Information) “but not many (officials) responded positively”.
The AI said that it will use the report on pellet guns as a campaign to urge GoI to stop its use. “AI stands for absolute prohibition of pellets,” Rai said. “We are reaching out to different organisations, international fora and offices across the world,” he said in response to a question.
The AI said that governments in Srinagar and Delhi justify the use of pellets saying “stone-pelting only happens in Kashmir”.
To a question on whether regime changes in Delhi affect work of the rights group, Patel said, “It (situation) has been so under previous governments as well.”
A member of the AI said, “The rights group has been forthright in criticising the government actions for violating its own obligations. A lot of work remains to be done in informing people in India about what is happening in Kashmir.”
The AI in its report has come up with several recommendations, which it believes governments in Delhi and Srinagar should follow:
a) Immediately stop the use of pellet-firing shotguns on public demonstrations, and ensure that the use of other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on the use of force.
b) Provide full reparation in line with international standards to those who have been injured by pellet-firing shotguns, and to the families of those killed. This must include adequate compensation and rehabilitation, including any medical and psychological care that may be needed.
c) Initiate prompt, independent and impartial civilian criminal investigations into all incidents where the use of pellet-firing shotguns led to deaths or serious injuries to establish whether arbitrary or excessive force was used, and where sufficient evidence is found, prosecute those suspected of responsibility in civilian courts.
d) Provide relevant training on crowd control measures and the use of force and firearms to security force personnel of the central and state governments, as laid out in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.