Editorial: Pellet horror returns

Srinagar: The fresh spree of protests in south Kashmir’s Shopian, Kulgam and other areas has once again brought the pellet horror back. During the last two days almost 200 people have been injured by the deadly pellets and the numbers are swelling by every passing day.

The pellet horror wreaked by the pellet ammunition in 2016 has revisited the SMHS Hospital here where almost 122 cases of fresh injuries were treated on Sunday when protests were on a high in Shopian, Kulgam and various other areas of south Kashmir.

The medicos posted in the hospital said that at least 45 cases of fresh injuries are serious and they all need follow up treatment to get to know the extent of damage to the eyes.

More or less, the 41 youth admitted to the hospital on Sunday are destined for the same fate as that of hundreds of persons who ultimately lost sight in one or both eyes during the 2016 protests spanning several months.

Despite repeated assurance from both the Government of India and state government in the past about replacing pellet guns with less lethal weapons, the use of these deadly pellet guns continues.

Though the Government of India had constituted a seven-member expert team headed by a joint secretary in the home ministry TVSN Prasad to look for an alternative to pellets. The panel recommended introduction of PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) shells, which were later withdrawn, leaving pellet shot guns as the main weapon for crowd control in Kashmir again.

Later, the forces said aluminum deflectors were being fitted to pellet guns to minimise injuries to eyes but that did not work. More thana 1100 people were hit by pellet in face and eyes during the

five-month-long unrest in 2016 triggered by the killing of militant commander BurhanWani.

Even in September last, Amnesty International India (AI) had released a report on the pellet and its impact on the people of the Kashmir valley.

The report titled “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The impact of pellet-Firing Shotguns” depicted 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.

The pellet injuries have been a cause of serious concern among the civil society bodies as well. However, the use of these lethal weapons continues unabated leaving all those who are hit by them in pain and agony for the rest of their lives.

The case of young Insha, a teenage girl from Shopian is fresh in our minds. Her story of sheer courage and hope reminds us how lethal these guns can be. But as of now the state as well as the Union governments have failed to put an end to the use of this lethal weapon.

No doubt, authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not a solution. The past two years have provided us ample examples to support our claims. The  forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by the protestors by means that allow more control over the harm caused.

It is irresponsible of authorities to continue the use of these shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do.



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