As eye-injuries caused by pellets have gone beyond 100 during the past five days of unrest in Kashmir, the J&K government has come under sharp criticism for failing to ban use of "lethal" pellet guns which have resulted in many deaths and left dozens vision-less.
Hospitals in Srinagar, particularly general specialty SMHS hospital, have received 120 cases of pellet injuries, particularly eye and face injuries, since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani.
Since 2010, when the pellet gun was used for the first time, different rights bodies and groups have been repeatedly calling for banning its use, saying it causes injuries to "even persons not involved in the protests."
A senior police official—talking to Greater Kashmir on the condition of anonymity—confirmed that pellets when fired don't have a "predictable and definite trajectory".
"When a pellet gun is fired, the cartridge bursts and immediately hundreds of pellets which are tiny iron balls, fly from a single point (in a funnel-like shape) in different directions at high velocity, hitting maximum people in the crowd simultaneously," he said.
On May 28, 2015, global rights body Amnesty International urged the J&K Government to prohibit the use of pellet-firing shotguns in demonstrations as "they are inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate".
"When the police are trying to contain violent persons, it is important that they focus any use of force accurately at those individuals. However, pellet guns cannot ensure well-targeted shots and risk causing serious injury, including to bystanders or other protesters not engaging in violence. These risks are almost impossible to control," the AI said. "Because of this high potential to cause unwarranted injury, including to bystanders and others, pellet guns should have no place in law enforcement."
The Amnesty International, while quoting police sources, said the pellet gun cartridges commonly used in J&K contain 400-500 pellets, resembling ball bearings.
In a book 'Kashmir: Scars Of Pellet Gun', its author Abdul Manan Bukhari has highlighted how the pellet guns, which were introduced as non-lethal weapons during 2010 unrest, have proved lethal.
According to the author, the pellet guns have claimed at least 10 lives since 2010 while rendering dozens visionless.
"Approximately, 1500 cases of pellet injuries have been reported in hospitals across several districts of Kashmir. Almost 70 percent have suffered damage to their most vital organs which in most cases were eye(s)," the book reveals.
In opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, from time to time, opposed use of pellet guns, demanding immediate ban on their use. That time the PDP attacked the Omar Abdullah-led Government for "continuing with its brute pellet gun policy to render Kashmir youth without eyesight."
However in power, the PDP-led Government has ignored taking a call on banning the weapon even though more than 120 civilians, as per reports, have received pellet injuries, most of them in eyes, in the past few days only.
Senior High Court lawyer Zaffar Ahmad Shah said pellets were "seriously damaging the human body, particularly eyes".
"The Government should have banned this weapon but there may be some counter-opinion or lobby within the Government that is against banning its use in Kashmir," he said.
He said the Bar Association should again approach the High Court for seeking directions to prevent use of pellet guns in Kashmir given the extent of injuries during the past four days.
"This time, we have an overwhelming evidence to show that pellet guns are causing grievous injuries to human body particularly eyes," he said.