Pellet Guns are Lethal

Riyan Rashid

The Jallikattu protest turned violent across Tamil Nadu. Protesters torched several vehicles, police lathicharged on the agitationists, detained them by the day end. Petrol bombs were thrown on police vehicles which were parked outside the police station. A group of fifty protesters set Ice House police station on fire. Around fifteen bikes parked in front of the police station went up in flames in no time. The protesters hurled stones at the police station and at least 22 policemen were injured in the stone pelting. Protesters hurled petrol bombs on police deployment. Police buses came under repeated attack resulting in passenger injuries when protesters threw stones at the buses. Protesters attacked even the marriage parties. During this violence about ninety police personnel were injured but the infamous Pellet Guns which were used in Kashmir were not used in Tamil Nadu.

Comparing the visuals of arson and violence in Tamil Nadu to unrest in Kashmir during 2016 summer is not comfortable but it forced liberals and democrats to raise a disturbing question : "Are Pellet Guns reserved only for Kashmir"? The world's first mass blinding incident in Kashmir following the death of Hizbul Commander Burhan Muzzaffar Wani is unforgettable. The ruthless response by the Indian security forces blinded hundreds of Kashmiri civilians. Official figures show that 8904 civilians were injured after security forces used pellet guns on protesters. Teenagers who lost their vision due to pellet guns injuries are now living in pain and will have to suffer for entire life. Insha Malik (14-year-old), a 9th class student has lost vision, after suffering pellet gun injuries during a clash between stone-pelters and security forces in Shopian. A 23-year-old Riyaz Ahmed Shah died in Srinagar of multiple pellet injuries. The autopsy report said that Riyaz Ahmed Shah was shot at from a close range, and there were multiple pellet injuries to his vital organs. After an inspection of patients with eye injuries caused by the pellet guns, at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SHMS) hospital in Srinagar, Sudarshan Khokhar, an ophthalmologist from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIM) said, "Pellet Guns should not be used here".

Pellets are loaded with lead and once fired they disperse in huge numbers. They do not follow a definite path. Pellets penetrate the skin's soft tissues, and eye being the delicate structure is the most vulnerable to damage. Once the pellet goes inside an eye it shatters the tissues and causes multiple damages to all parts of the eye.

Pellet Guns were first introduced in Kashmir in 2010 for crowd control as a "non-lethal" alternative to other deadlier weapons. Nevertheless, in 2010, 14-year-old Irshad Ahmed Farray and 20-year-old Mudasir Nazir lost their lives to pellet guns injuries. These boys are two of the ten victims who have been killed by pellet guns since 2010, yet these guns are considered "non-lethal" by the security authorities!

The Jammu and Kashmir government in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by the Kashmir High Court Bar Association seeking a ban on pellet guns, has said that firing pellets on the protesting people "is not unconstitutional" and the use of pellet guns "cannot be banned". The use of 12 Bore Pump Action Gun and or use of pellet gun and or use of cartridge containing 400 or 500 lead/metallic/rounded or sharp edged metallic pellets during crowd control is not unconstitutional violating the provisions of the constitution including Article 21 of the World's largest constitution!

The expert panel, set up by the Home Ministry to find an alternative to pellet guns suggested use of chilli-filled grenades and 'Stun lac shells' to control mob. However, there will be no blanket ban on pellet guns. At the most it will be used in "rarest of rare cases".

Vol. 49, No.36, Mar 12 - 18, 2017