As the unrest in the Kashmir valley continues for the 44th day, a committee constituted by the Home Ministry to look for alternatives to pellet guns is exploring options including enhancing the intensity of tear gas used in shells, using chilli powder and rubber bullets, a senior government official told The Hindu.
The seven-member expert committee, headed by T.V.S.N Prasad, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, was constituted on July 26 and is expected to submit its report within two months.
The committee has met five times and most members had one major concern — any alternative should not defeat the “primary purpose” of safeguarding the security forces. Another area of concern was the expected rise in number of civilian deaths if pellet guns were withdrawn altogether.
“In all, the meetings held so far, the main objective is that security forces should not be left to fend for themselves. We are exploring whether to increase the chemical content in tear gas shells to drive away the protestors. The Tekanpur facility of Border Security Force, which manufactures the tear gas shells has been asked to come up with a solution whether the increased chemical content would be useful,” said an official familiar with the developments.Stronger tear gas
The Central Reserve Police Force, which has been deployed in the valley to assist the State police for crowd-control informed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in an affidavit that it had fired 1.3 million pellets from pump-action guns in the period July 8 to August 11. More than 400 people have been injured due to pellet fire and several political parties have asked the government to withdraw its use in the valley, which has been simmering since Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter on July 8. The CRPF said it fired 8,650 tear-gas shells during the same period.
“The use of chilli powder is also being explored and we have asked some foreign vendors to come and give us demonstration on the various kinds of crowd-control methods being used worldwide. The protestors in the valley are always armed with big stones and security forces are vulnerable during such demonstrations,” said the official.