After remaining at centre of focus in Kashmir for almost two years after 2016, the use of pellet guns has gone all-time low given the decreasing intensity of street protests. The security top brass attributes the less use of pellets to strict adherence of standard operating procedure that enlists use of pellets as “last option.”
This acquisition of pellet ammunition by the security forces has also touched a new low after 2016 as officials assert that due to less use they already have enough stocks available.
This year one death – that of a class 7 student Owais Mushtaq Mir of Handwara – was caused in pellet firing by security forces, compared to several such killings in 2016.
Figures available with the CRPF reveal that since January less than ten per cent of pellets were used by its men while dealing with the protests. “In 2016, all the available stock of pellets exhausted and we had to seek more supplies. In 2017, our men also used pellets to disperse the protestors and 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.”
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 Greater Kashmir.
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.
Greater Kashmir recently carried a detailed report quoting official report that suggested that the intensity of protests in Kashmir in year 2019 had gone down by 60 per cent.
In 2016, the use of pellets had left thousands of youth injured with around 1000 of them getting hit in their eyes. Some 100 civilians lost their eyesight in one eye or both. In 2018, 725 persons sustained pellet injuries and many of them were hit in eyes. However, according to doctors, damage caused to youth due to pellet injuries was far less in 2018 compared to 2016 and 2017.
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.
The use of pellet guns has evoked sharp criticism with many global bodies and the rights body Amnesty International frequently demanding ban on use of pellets.