Defending the Indefensible

Around 500 persons have suffered pellet injuries in their eyes over the 42 days of uprising in Kashmir. This was revealed by the state government to the J&K High Court  on Saturday, in response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by Kashmir High Court Bar Association seeking details about patients being treated for eye injuries in J&K hospitals as well as those getting treatment outside the state.   A division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Ali Muhammad Magray had directed the state government to file the status report about the number of patients with eye injuries. In response, Government has revealed a figure of 446 eye injury patients admitted to Srinagar's Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital. The figure doesn't include the numbers admitted to other hospitals of Kashmir or those who have gone to other parts of the country for treatment. J&K Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganaie in an affidavit told the court that a majority of the victims had suffered "multiple structural damage" to their eye balls and would require two or more surgeries to repair the damage. On the other hand, the CRPF has informed High Court that if pellet guns are banned as a crowd control measure, its personnel will be forced to fire bullets in extreme situations, which can cause more killings. This has created a paradoxical situation where none existed. The CRPF acknowledges that the use of pellet guns has wreaked havoc by partially or completely blinding an unacceptably large number of persons, but it is reluctant to do away with the "non-lethal weapon" as the alternative is the use of bullets.  This is an inherently disingenuous argument. Truth is that the ongoing uprising in the state is not the first of its kind but only the latest manifestations of many such groundswells in the past. And if, to cite the CRPF argument, the use of pellet guns is important to quell the protests, how come protests of similar intensity in the previous decades were dealt with more successfully without them. How come, no such weapons were needed to control recent agitations of similar scale in Haryana and Gujarat. Besides, if pellet guns were supposed to minimize the loss of life, what explains the mortifying toll of 66 deaths in 42 days, the highest rate of deaths ever in any previous unrest in Valley. And finally, how can we argue that blinding somebody is a lesser punishment than death. Given the unconscionably heavy toll of eye injuries during the ongoing unrest leading to around 200 people partially or completely losing their vision, all excuses to use pellet guns are nothing but dubious attempts to defend the indefensible.  The CRPF should better give up the pretence of advancing a reasoned argument to the court.

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