After Kashmir’s summer unrest of 2010 that claimed the lives of 112 protesters in police firing, then Congress-led government at the Centre deployed pellet guns as a “non-lethal” measure to avoid civilian fatalities. The latest confrontation between civilans and the security personnel gives us an opportunity to have a relook at the issue again. Have pellet guns proved to be an effective deterrent in dissuading people from protesting?
In the latest crackdown, the use of 'non-lethal' pellet guns have resulted in extensive injuries to many, including a child as young as 12. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has assured Parliament that the government would look into the use of these guns.
Here some frequently asked questions on the issue of usage of pellet guns:
What are pellet guns?
They are a form of non-lethal crowd control methods used by police and military worldwide. The other popular methods are tear gas, water cannon, pepper spray, taser guns etc. Pellet guns are also popular in hunting and pest control.
What are they intended for?
Pellets guns are intended to injure individuals and cause pain. They are effective over short ranges up to 500 yards but when fired from close quarters can be lethal, particularly when sensitive parts like eyes are hit. Pellets can penetrate soft tissues. An official said security forces were asked to open minimal fire at protesters and if necessary “below their waist."
A photo taken at the surgical ICU hospital in Srinagar on July 16, 2016 shows the X-ray of a 14-year-old girl who suffered pellet injuries on her face that have left her blind in both eyes. Image: AFP
How does a pellet look like?
A cartridge of a pellet gun contains few hundred pellets made of Lead. Pellets can be of various shapes either like ball bearings or irregular. When fired, the cartridge disperses few hundred pellets over few hundred metres depending on the type.
Who manufactures them?
Pellet guns are manufactured at the Ordinance Factory, Ishapore.
When were they introduced?
They are used by Jammu & Kashmir Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). They were first introduced in August 2010. The CRPF has 600 such guns.
Where are they put to use?
These guns are used in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas but they are mostly used in the Kashmir Valley.
Initially pellet type 4/5 was in use but after 110 people were killed in Kashmir in 2010, it was decided to change the type to 8/9. For the last two and half years, type 8/9 is being used and it is believed to be non-lethal.
CRPF Fatalities in the valley
In 2016, 1022 CRPF personnel were injured. Of this 956 were injured in pelting of stones in the Valley between July 8-16 during the unrest. For the rest of the year from January 1 to July 7, 22 were injured in pelting of stones and 44 injured in grenade blasts.