CRPF suggests ‘plastic’ remedy for street protests in Kashmir 

Srinagar: After the Supreme Court directed the para military forces in May this year to consider effective means other than use of pellet guns to quell stone pelting mobs in the state, the CRPF will be dispatching 21,000 rounds of newly-developed plastic bullets to the Kashmir Valley, the TOI reported on Saturday.

The bullets, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and manufactured by the Ordnance factory based in Pune, can be fitted in the AK series of assault rifles and will be an alternative to the much-criticised pellet shotguns.

“Tests have shown that these plastic bullets are less lethal. This will reduce our dependence on pellet guns and other non-lethal weapons used for crowd control,” CRPF Director General (DG) R R Bhatnagar has said.

He said this will be newest less lethal ammunition the force has introduced to tackle crowds and counter stone pelters in the Valley.

“About 21,000 rounds have just been sent for distribution to all our units,” he added.

Pertinently, the apex court had asked the Centre to consider effective means other than use of pellet guns to quell stone pelting mobs.

A bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar had expressed concern over injuries suffered by minors involved in protests in the Kashmir Valley and asked the government what action has been taken by it against their parents.

The top court asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to file a detailed reply on what alternate effective steps could be taken to deal with such situation of agitating mobs in Jammu and Kashmir.

On December 14 last year, the SC had said pellet guns should not be used “indiscriminately” for controlling street protests in the state and be resorted to only after “proper application of mind” by the authorities.

A bench headed by the then Chief Justice T S Thakur had issued notices to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government while seeking their replies on a plea alleging “excessive” use of pellet guns in the state.

The top court had also sought assistance of Attorney General on the issue and asked him to submit copy of the report submitted by the Expert Committee constituted for exploring other alternatives to pellet guns.

Notably, CRPF used 1.3 million pellets in 32 days in Kashmir to control the protests in July and August 2016. The force also told the apex court that it was difficult to follow the standard operating procedure [SOP], given the nature of the protests.

Between July 8 and August 11, the force used 8,650 tear-smoke shells and 3,000 pellet cartridges, besides 14 types of “less lethal and nonlethal” munitions, such as oleoresin grenades, pepper balls, stun grenades and electron shells. The security personnel also used 2,671 plastic pellets, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court was told.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed seeking a complete ban on pellet guns in view of the irreversible injuries they have caused to hundreds of civilians in the Valley. Responding to the plea, the CRPF said, “Pellet guns were introduced in 2010 as an accepted weapon of riot control. In case this [pellet shotgun] is withdrawn, the CRPF would have no recourse in extreme situations but to open fire with rifles, which may cause more fatalities.”

The force has not done away with other non-lethal weapons and is getting more pump action guns fitted with metal deflectors so that pellet injuries do not go above the waist.

“Even our specialised anti-riot unit RAF can use it at some point of time to render their duties. We will see how to go about it in the future,” the DG said.

The usage of pellets in the Kashmir Valley had come under heavy criticism after locals suffered grievous injuries, including blindness in most of the cases, in the last few years.

The Union government had then ordered for the introduction of chilli-based PAVA shells to replace the pellet shotguns.

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