Srinagar: With the intensity of street protest and stone pelting declining, the use of pellet guns by security forces has gone all-time low in Kashmir this year.
The acquisition of pellet ammunition by the security forces has also touched a new low first time after 2016. Official figures reveal that since January this year less than 10% of pellets were used by paramilitary CRPF men while dealing with the protests.
“In 2016, all the available stock of pellets exhausted, and we had to seek more supplies. In 2017, the use of pellets remained up to 70 per cent of the stock available with us,” a senior CRPF official revealed.
“After 2018 summer, the use of pellets saw a declining trend. This year we hardly used pellets as protests didn’t turn ugly the way they were in 2016 and 2017,” he added.
However, despite the fact that pellet use by security forces has declined, on April 11, a class 7th student, Owais Mushtaq Mir of north Kashmir’s Handwara town was killed in pellet firing by security forces after the first phase of polling ended in Baramulla Lok Sabha seat.
The security top brass attributes the less use of pellets to strict adherence of standard operating procedure (SoP) that enlists use of pellets as “last option.”
Inspector general of CRPF Srinagar sector, Ravideep Singh Sahi, said that one of the major factors responsible for less use of pellets in Kashmir this year is that there were no intense protests. “The number and the intensity of protests have gone down considerably in Kashmir,” Sahi told reporters.
He said another important measure to ensure less damage to the protestors and their eyes was the strict adherence of SoPs and the intense training of firing pellets below the waist. “The SoPs clearly states that use of pellets should be the last option,” he said.
According to figures at Srinagar’s SMHS hospital, where most of the pellet victims in Kashmir are treated, continued use of pellets, fired from shotguns by security forces for crowd control, has fully or partially blinded more than 1,250 victims since 2016 alone. Of these, 61 were injured in both eyes.
The use of pellet guns in Kashmir during 2016 unrest caused an international outrage forcing the government of India at that time to announce that it would introduce a less lethal alternative for the pellet gun. But pellet guns continue to be used as a ‘weapon of choice’ against civilian protesters across Kashmir.
In November 2018, pellets were fired in the eyes of 20-month old Hiba and she became the youngest victim of pellet horror in Kashmir.