Srinagar: The State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Tuesday granted a “final opportunity” to police authorities to submit a copy of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) followed while using pepper gas against civilian protesters in Kashmir.
SHRC Chairman Justice (Rtd) Bilal Nazki remarked that a copy of the SOPs had not been produced yet before the court. “Last opportunity of one week is granted. If copy of SOP is not produced by next date, it will be presumed that there is no SOP and it is a free-for-all,” Justice Nazki said.
The commission was hearing a petition filed by human rights activist Ahsan Untoo in which he complained that police used excessive quantity of pepper gas to curb protests, due to which children and the elderly suffered respiratory problems and were exposed to risk of serious diseases.
The petition stated that in Srinagar’s downtown areas of Nowhatta, Safakadal, Nawakadal, Rajouri Kadal, etc, the use of pepper gas against the civilian population was frequent and excessive.
“The police are deliberately using the pepper gas to kill people silently,” the petitioner alleged in his complaint.
The petitioner cited a study by well-known scientist Deborah Blum conducted in 2004 on pepper spray, which states that “pepper spray can cause respiratory, cardiac, and neurological problems.”
Untoo stated before the SHRC that pepper gas can cause several problems, including in eyesight, among infants and minors. “It can also cause dysentery, severe chest infection among elders, and can lead to tuberculosis and asthma. The gas is highly harmful for pregnant woman,” Untoo quoted medical reports as saying.
Since the Amarnath land row in 2008, the state police have procured “non-lethal weapons” such as pellet guns and pepper gas shells to tackle protesters. Thousands of civilians have either become disabled or have developed serious health problems due to the use of these weapons, especially pellet guns.