‘Less lethal’ plastic pellets to be used in Kashmir

Security personnel use tear gas to disperse protesting students in Srinagar on Monday.   | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Monday it would introduce less lethal “plastic bullets” to be used against protesters in Jammu and Kashmir. The Valley has seen unprecedented violence since July 8 last after Hizb-ul-Mujahideen member Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter.

The Ministry said it was exploring options to initiate a dialogue in Kashmir, including with separatists, but none had came forward in the past and it had hit a dead end.

The Ministry also said it was considering the enhanced use of “bunkers” to protect security forces from stone throwers after the annual ‘Darbar’ shift from Jammu to Srinagar in the next few days.

Vitiated by bypoll

A senior government official said the government had managed to control the spiral of violence but the “atmosphere was vitiated” because of the April 9 byelection to the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency.

A 26-year-old man was tied to the front of an Army vehicle and paraded for more than two hours to deter stone throwers in Budgam district of Kashmir on April 9. The Army team involved had reportedly gone to rescue a polling team comprising ITBP officials, which was surrounded by around 700 people. A video of the “human shield” incident sparked outrage and the local police have registered a case.

On Monday, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting with officials to discuss the security situation in Kashmir. NSA Ajit Doval and Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi were present.

“We discussed measures to bring back things on track in Kashmir as the tourist season is approaching. We don’t want the commoners to suffer. We had requested the Election Commission to not conduct the elections but they went ahead. Most forces couldn’t reach the polling stations and that is why they were outnumbered by protesters,” the official said.

‘Video from Pakistan’

Another official claimed the “human shield” video was posted by someone in Pakistan. “Almost all the videos, which show security forces in negative light are being uploaded by illegal elements in the neighbouring country. They are being spread on social media as per a design,” the official alleged.

Regarding the human shield video, the official said, “You cannot marry law with emotions. Uniformed forces have to act responsibly.”

The official said the MHA had revised the standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Central police forces and they have been instructed to use pellet guns sparingly.

The new plastic bullets were still being tested at the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) in Chandigarh and would be introduced once the testing procedures are over.

“The plastic bullets can be fired from the weapons the forces already have. Instead of a metal head, the round of ammunition would have a plastic head. The guns would fire one bullet at a time and would be less lethal,” explained an official.

Chilli filled shells

Earlier, after the 2010 unrest in the Valley, then Omar Abdullah led government introduced anti-riot guns, which fired plastic bullets and which after being released disintegrated into more than 40 small projectiles.

The Home Ministry has also rushed in over one lakh pieces of chilli filled PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) shells to aid security forces in handling mobs.

An official said the Home Ministry had received a report from a team of "concerned citizens" led by former External Affairs Minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, which recommended "multi-dimensional dialogue" that included talks with separatists. The report also asked the government to improve the human rights situation and resuscitate democratic linkages between with people and allow Kashmiris to assemble and meet to hold discussions.

However, so far the report had not been considered or discussed at any level in the government.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 3:49:00 AM |

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