CRPF sticks to pellet guns ‘for now’

Officials admit that Kashmir is the only place where the pump-action shotguns have been used for crowd control.

July 21, 2016 02:11 am | Updated December 04, 2021 10:59 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Faces disfigured by pellets and blinded youngsters could be the lasting image from Kashmir Valley’s chaotic summer of 2016. However, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which has seen an unusually high number of injuries in its ranks as it battled crowds staging agitation over the past several days, says for now there is no concrete alternative to the ‘pellet’ guns, known as ‘pump-action guns’ in defence parlance.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured Parliament earlier this week that the government would look into the use of these guns, which resulted in extensive injuries to people, including a child as young as 12.

However, the CRPF, which is deployed to control the unrest along with the Jammu & Kashmir police, says as of now they do not have any alternative to these guns.

“If we react, as some hawks want us to do, then there would be more casualties. There is nothing called a non-lethal weapon, even a mobile phone can be used as a weapon to attack someone and it would be fatal for that person. As of today, 1,022 CRPF jawans are injured in stone-pelting incidents, as many as 956 of them in 10 days alone when the unrest was at its peak,” said K. Durga Prasad, Director General (DG), CRPF.An official explained that pump-action guns were introduced in the Valley in August 2010 after an agitation in the same year in which 110 people were killed in police firing.The CRPF has 600 of these guns, which are manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) in Ishapore, West Bengal.

“We use some in Left Wing Extremism areas, but majority of these guns are in use in the Kashmir Valley. Pellet guns are the last resort, when all the other options like gas shells and gas grenades fail,” the official said.

However, for the record, officials admit that Kashmir is the only place where the pump-action shotguns have been used for crowd control. A senior official said the Valley has seen unprecedented protests since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8.“We stopped using type [number] 4 and 5 pellets [lead shots] since the past two-and-a-half years as they were found to be extremely lethal. We switched to using type 8 and 9 pellets. The higher the number, the less lethal the pellet would be,” said the official. The official also explained that the shells are filled with shrapnel and, when fired, they go in multiple directions.

“We have asked our jawans to aim low so that when fired, it only hits the lower part of the body. We have got to know that many people have lost their vision due to pellet injuries and we are looking into these reports. As of now, we do not have an alternative to pellet guns,” said Mr. Prasad.

In fact, DGP K. Rajendra Kumar had said last year that as “pellet guns, a non-lethal weapon, are causing injuries”, they were looking for an alternative that “would be less harmful and also help our men to disperse the protesters.” However, a year later this is yet to happen.

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