In what could raise serious questions on handling of the crowd control weapons by police and central paramilitary forces in Kashmir, 11 civilians – mostly teenagers – have been killed by teargas shells in the region since 2008.
The indiscriminate use of teargas shells in Kashmir has come into focus again in the wake of killing of Irfan Ahmad Wani here on Saturday. He died after being hit by a teargas shell in the chest.
The killing has raised questions on firing of teargas shell – described as a least lethal weapon – by the forces during protest demonstrations in Kashmir even as a study conducted by doctors at SKIMS Soura between 2007 to 2009 suggested that "the personnel using them might be trained in a better way so that the people do not receive direct hits."
Details gathered by Greater Kashmir reveal that 11 persons have lost their life after being hit by teargas shells in different parts of Kashmir over the last eight years.
In 2008, when Kashmir witnessed massive protest demonstrations against the transfer of land to Amarnath Shrine Board, two civilians- Asif Mehraj and Abdul Gani Sheikh- lost their life after they were hit by teargas shells in two separate incidents.
Next year, teargas shells snuffed out life of Nisar Ahmad Mir, Arif Ayoub Bhat and Irfan Ahmad Lone in Srinagar and Baramulla.
In 2010, Tufail Matto, Wamiq Farooq and Arif Ahmad Bhat were killed when forces fired teargas shells on them. 14-year-old Arif Ahmad Bhat had sustained critical injuries on October 25, 2009, when a teargas shell hit him on the head in Srinagar's Maisuma locality. He breathed his last on November 12, 2010.
Last year 22-year-old engineering student, Gowhar Nazir Dar, according to police and CRPF officials, was killed by a teargas shell at Zainakote, on the outskirts of Srinagar. However, his family contested the claim, saying he was hit by a bullet.
Earlier this year, Jahangir Ahmad Wani was killed in Drugmulla area of Kupwara when police lobbed teargas canisters to disperse the people protesting against civilian killings by Army in Handwara.
Over the years, the forces have come under sharp criticism for firing teargas canisters directly on protesters in Kashmir.
"They are using tear gas shells as bullets, hitting directly on vital parts of the body which causes death," observers say.
"They fire teargas shells horizontally, rather than trying to lob them at a 45 degree angle."
A study conducted at SKIMS Soura concluded that tear gas cartridge, though considered as one of the benign modalities of controlling agitated crowds, is not really benign.
"It can cause serious injuries and mortality. The personnel using them might be trained in a better way so that the people do not receive direct hits," the study –Head Injury Caused By Tear Gas Cartridge in Teenage Population – reads.
According to the study, the common CT scan finding was that injured had brain contusion with skull fracture.
The study was conducted by Dr. Abrar Wani, Dr Javeed Zargar, Dr Altaf Ramzan, Dr Nayil K Malik, Dr. A Qayoom, Dr. A.R. Kirmani, Dr. Furqan A.Nizami and Dr. M.A. Wani.