Rights watchdog, Amnesty International India on Wednesday said that the Pellet-firing shotguns, which have been responsible for blinding, killing and traumatizing hundreds of people in Kashmir, must be immediately banned.
“Pellet-firing shotguns, which have been responsible for blinding, killing and traumatizing hundreds of people in Kashmir, must be immediately banned,” Amnesty International India reiterated during the release of the report here in Srinagar.
The report titled “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The impact of pellet-Firing Shotguns” depicts the cases of 88 pellet victims in the valley whose eyesight was damaged by the metal pellets fired from pump-action shotguns used by the police and Central Reserve Police Force between 2014 and 2017.
Speaking on the occasion, Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India reminded the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise in his independence day speech about the Kashmir, he said that “if the government truly means, they must end the use of pellet-firing shotguns”.
“The weapon (pellets) which is reserved for only Kashmiris should not be used,” Patel said.
“Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution,” said Aakar Patel.
“Security forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protesters by means that allow for better targeting or more control over harm cause,” Patel said.
“It is irresponsible of authorities to continue the use of these shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do,” he said.
He said that instead of pellets Security forces can opt for less lethal and legitimate use of force like water cannons, cane charge, or tear gas.
Manzoor Ahmad, a victim who suffered eye injuries during the protest of 2016 said that he is worried about his family as he was only earning hand in his family.
“I left my studies and started working to support my family after my father passed away. Now I have had to give up this job on the doctor’s advice,” he said.
Ahmad was working as a baker when he was hit by pellets on October 31 in 2016.
“I am worried about my family now,” he added.
Meanwhile, Amnesty said that people injured by the pellet-firing shotguns have faced serious physical and mental health issues, including symptoms of psychological trauma. Students who were hit in the eyes said that they continue to have learning difficulties. Several victims who were the primary breadwinners for their families fear that they will not be able to work any longer. It said that many victims have not regained the eyesight despite many surgeries, the report said.
“In some cases, those injured by pellet-firing shotguns still have the metal pellets lodged in their skulls, near their eyes. Doctors have been afraid to remove the pellets, fearing that it will affect eyesight, but they are not sure what the long term affects will be,” said Zahoor Wani, Senior Campaigner at Amnesty International India said.
He said that it is unclear if pellet guns have been tested properly as the Central government has turned down requests for information about pellet guns.
“It is unclear if the shot guns have been properly tested for their effects and risks assessed, or whether there is even any protocol about how they must be used,” he said.
He added, “The government of Jammu and Kashmir has provided little support to those injured and disabled by this weapon”.
Among the 88 cases of pellet victims, Amnesty has documented during 2014-17, include minors from the age of 9 years to elders who are around 65 years old. According to the report, 31 men were hit in both eyes. The report said that 14 women were also hit within the premises of their homes. In two cases victims were totally blinded. The AI said that there is only one case where the family has filed an FIR against the forces.
Pertinently, Amnesty International India has called on the central government and state government to immediately stop the use of pellet-firing shotguns and ensure the use of all other weapons are in line with international human rights standards on use of force.
It urged government of the state to initiate, prompt, independent and impartial civilian investigation into all incidents where the use of pellets led to death or injuries to establish whether arbitrary or excessive force was used.
“…and where sufficient evidence is found, prosecute those suspected of responsibility in civilian courts.”