Lethal non-lethal weapons

Lethal non-lethal weapons

Kashmiri kids in the line of fire

Zohra a 5-yr old little angel narrates her encounter with a shower of pellets to her by a police uncle. She calls pellets as crackers. Her sister lying close to her in a hospital bed has suffered the same agony whereas her father is being treated in SKIMS for more serious pellet injuries. Tamana is just 9 and she too has suffered pellet injuries and is being treated for the same. Horrifying tales about pellets are coming from our hospitals. Insha a 13-yr old girl sitting quietly in her home aspiring to be a doctor was blinded for life by a hail of pellets. Zohra, Tamana and Insha are our daughters who have nothing to do with stone pelting or are in no way connected to protests and yet they will carry with them the scars of pellets and Insha if she survives will be a blind, disfigured and disabled girl in a country with a mission of  Beti Bachao Beti Padao.

The fact that 100 people have been operated upon for pellet injuries of eyes at SMHS hospital and more than 30 of them will be blind for life speaks volumes about how safe the so called non-lethal weapons are. Most of these blinded are teen agers whose lives will be pushed into darkness for ever. And many of them were indoors …

 Pellets were introduced to control mobs in 2008. They were believed to be non-lethal weapons-the weapons which would not kill. But they killed, they maimed and they caused serious eye injuries when used in 2010. A study conducted by the Dept. of Ophthalmology at SMHS hospital on 60 cases of eye injuries found 30% of these to be due to pellets. Most of the ocular injuries by pellets were noticed to be visually disabling. The study published concluded -given the seriousness of the damages caused by methods used to control public demonstrations, use of lethal weapons becomes imperative( Saudi J Opthalmol 2012;26(3):327-330). Though these findings formed a solid evidence that pellets were not non-lethal their use continued and today hundreds of pellet ridden bodies of our kids are a proof of the indifference  towards the future of our kids. Activist -Manan Bukharis book – Kashmir’s scars of pellet gun- reports 1500 pellet victims with serious injuries and 10 deaths from pellets in Kashmir since 2010, 70% of victims had eye injuries. So statistics before the present uprising was available to designate -Pellets as lethal weapons. Why its use is continuing needs an answer from all stakeholders? Pellets might have been classified as non- lethal when they would hit below the waist but when they rip through internal organs viz, lung,liver, brain and most disabling of all through eyes, their non-lethality poses a serious question?

 So pellet guns are not non-lethal and so are not many other modalities utilized to control mobs. We do not need to look into  the world literature, our own research has proved that none of the methods used to control mobs in Kashmir are safe. For example, aerial firing has been used for mob control in Kashmir and stray bullets have targeted many people causing death and disability. These cases formed part of a series published from SKIMS. Many patients especially kids  playing in fields dropped unconscious or developed sudden weakness in limbs and when hospitalised bullets were found in their brain or spine on CT scans. These bullets were fired for crowd dispersal 1-3 Kms. from the site of injury. Though unintentional firearm injuries commonly occur due to celebratory gunfire or during accidental handling of firearms-a series describing unintentional firearm injury to scare away mobs was reported for the first time in world literature.(Surg Neuol Int. 2011;2;122). Doctors are unhappy about what they have reported-but would be happier if someone could take a lesson from this study. The study concluded that aerial firing is not innocuous as thought  and should be banned because of the harm it causes to the innocent bystanders.

Similarly, a study on the use of tear gas cartridges considered to be innocuous method of  mob control has caused lethal injuries in Kashmiris especially children.The patients affected were analysed and a series published from SKIMS which concluded that tear gas cartridges considered as benign modalities of controlling agitated crowds are not really benign. They can cause serious injuries and mortality (Pediatr Neurosg 2010;46:25-28)A series from SKIMS on use of pepper gas has also concluded that pepper gas can precipitate respiratory problems, asthmatic attacks  in vulnerable patients, dermatological problems, sleep disturbances or in extreme cases cause death.(Journal of Public Health Policy 2014;35(4)494-505) Paediatricians  from Kashmir are worried about the serious respiratory ailments pepper gas is causing among children.

So, none of the methods used at present in Kashmir for mob control are non lethal –instead of using them without a thought it would have been better to look at our own experience with these weapons and accordingly devise a methodology for their use on our people. It is time to sit with health experts before you pump pellets,  sprinkle tear gas or pepper gas onto our people.

Children of Kashmir are children bred in conflict-they lose their limbs on the way to their schools(in Tosamaidan for example), they lose their eyes even if they hide in their rooms, they lose their life when they try being naughty in the streets. They are children-they have a right to live. Don’t blind them, don’t maim them, don’t kill them-they have dreams,  don’t shatter them. The sparkling and shinning dots that pellets have left in their bodies are a  painful reminder of what they had to go through-I am sure they will not love you for that.

A juvenile in Delhi was a partner  in a serious crime against “Delhi braveheart”-you spared him because of his age. Is age not a criteria in Kashmir? Are Kashmiri children not the candidates for concession or should I say mercy?