For starters, ban the pellet gun

Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, scheduled to begin today, is a timely follow-up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Opposition leaders from the State on Monday. In a clear effort to soften the political rhetoric of the past days, Mr. Modi sought to hold out a healing hand, expressing “deep concern and pain” at the violence in the Valley, and saying that all those killed, protesters and police-persons, were “part of us”. In this, he drew a distinction from some of his more strident colleagues in the Cabinet. To be sure, the authorities are still struggling to bring under control the cycle of protests, police reaction and thereby death and injury. Over the last month and a half, since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen ‘commander’ Burhan Wani, with at least 65 persons dying in protests and police action and thousands being injured, the drift to alienation has been palpable. If the Prime Minister’s words are indicative of a shift from managing the fallout of Wani’s death to addressing the situation in the Valley, more needs to be done, and forthwith. In this, the government will have to establish its sincerity with empathy and actions.

A good start would be to ban the pellet gun. Over the past 40-plus days the government has not been able to dissuade protesters from breaking curfews and pelting stones at symbols of official authority. But its instrument of choice has proved to be both inhumane and outrageous. If there is a dark symbol of this summer in Kashmir, it is the protester or passerby, as the case may be, with eye injuries. After more than a hundred people died in the Valley in the protests of 2010, pellets were introduced as a gentler option for crowd control. They have proven to be anything but. It should not require a return to calm on the streets for the government to reconsider the use of the pellets. The CRPF has said that between July 8 and August 11, as many as 1.3 million pellets were fired in J&K. Shockingly, a significant number of pellet injuries have been inflicted on children below 15 years of age — perhaps as high as 15 per cent of those with pellet injuries. This may be an anecdotal estimate from Srinagar’s reputed Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, where the critically injured have mostly been taken. But it should not throw the security forces off balance to have to shift gear to less violent instruments of crowd control. Perhaps the government has the best instruments at its disposal, if only it would use them: an open mind and a larger heart. There is no alternative to reaching out to angry young people.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 3, 2021 9:12:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/For-starters-ban-the-pellet-gun/article14585355.ece

Next Story