Why can’t pellet guns be banned
The youngest pellet victim, 19 month old Hiba from south Kashmir has once again brought focus on the use of deadly pellet guns for crowd control practices. Hiba, the innocent kid was fired at by forces and as pellets hit her soft eyes she is on the verge of losing sight in one of her eyes permanently.
Use of the pellet guns in crowd-control has been the norm than an exception. Every time there is a protest in any part of Kashmir valley, pellet guns are the most used weapons to control the situation. At times the use of pellet guns has snatched lives also.
During the past few years more than six people were reported killed by the use of pellet guns as pellets had ruptured the vital organs of their victims.
As Kashmir is faced with another bout of protests and demonstrations following the aftermath of encounters between security forces and militants, numerous cases of pellet injuries are reported in hospitals with Srinagar’s major hospital SMHS witnessing increased pellet victims with severe injuries to eyes.
According to reports, there are currently around 100 odd people – most of them youth in their teens or early twenties – who are receiving treatment at the hospital for various eye injuries. Most of these injuries have proved threatening as these youth have very bleak chances of regaining their sight.
What is worrying is that the doctors at the hospitals have put the cumulative number of eye injuries due to pellets at more than 2000. Once again, the Ophthalmology wards at the SMHS hospital present an eerie spectacle: the swollen-faces and bloodshot stare of the victims horrifies visitors.
Though numerous assurances were given by the central government that the use of pellet guns to quell protests in Kashmir will be reviewed, but so far no concrete step has been taken in this regard. Even right body Amnesty International has openly criticized the government and the forces for using these deadly weapons.
In 2016, central government had formed an expert committee to review the use of the pellet guns in Kashmir and look for an alternative to non-lethal weapon for the crowd control. But in its report, the committee recommended no ban on the pellet guns, calling instead for their use in the “rarest of the rare” cases.
Use of pellet guns is so common in Kashmir that the forces are always equipped with pellet guns, no matter where they are posted. Every time there is a protest, pellet guns are used to control the situation. But this is not done when a similar situation arises in other parts of the country. For example, no pellet guns were used despite the protesters resorting to rioting and damaging public and government property. And the reality of this differential and discriminatory treatment is not lost on Kashmir. The feeling of being treated as the other- has deepened alienation among the people.
Pellet guns need an immediate ban and the government should waste no time in announcing it. The use of these weapons has brought a strange kind of dislike for the forces among the masses and if the government remains persistent with the use of such weapons than the widening divide between the government of the day and the people will deepen further.