NEW DELHI, SEPTEMBER 4—Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organisation, has called for a ban on use of metal pellets to disperse crowds in Jammu and Kashmir.
The demand has been made in a statement by the HRW released York on Friday, after reports that dozens of people were injured when police and paramilitary forces fired on Muharram procession in Kashmir Valley on August 29.
According to police, more than a dozen security personnel were also injured when the Muharram processionists retaliated with stones.
The government had banned the Muharram procession in view of the Covid.
South Asia director at Human Rights Watch Meenakshi Ganguly said, “Time and again, Indian law enforcement’s use of shotguns in Kashmir has resulted in shocking, grievous injuries of protesters and bystanders”.
“Indian authorities need to recognize that this weapon fired into crowds, even with violent demonstrators, will invariably cause indiscriminate and excessive injury in violation of international standards”, she said in the statement.
“Indian leaders who claim that their policies are improving the lives of Kashmiris cannot disregard that security forces are maiming, blinding, and killing people,” Ganguly said. “The Indian government should cease the use of shotguns firing metal pellets and review its crowd control techniques to meet international standards”, she demanded.
According to HRW, thousands of persons suffered injured, including loss of eyesight, since pellets were used as a non-lethal weapon to disperse the crowds in the Valley. The authorities had introduced pellets guns after 120 people were killed in violent protests in 2010.
The security, however, claim that pellets were used only when necessary and in response to violence by protesters.
According to HRW statement, security forces’ use of shotguns in Kashmir has caused deaths as well as injuries. “While there is no accurate data on casualties from shotgun-fired pellets, the Home Affairs Ministry told Parliament in February 2018 that 17 people had died from pellets between 2015 and 2017. According to the data journalism website IndiaSpend, pellets fired from shotguns blinded 139 people between July 2016 and February 2019. In January 2018, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told the state assembly that 6,221 people had been injured by pellets between July 2016 and February 2017 and among them, 782 people had eye injuries”, the statement said.
HRW pointed out that “the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has said that use of a shotgun “firing metal pellets is one of the most dangerous weapons used in Kashmir,” and has called for an immediate end to their use for crowd control”.
“In 2017, when questioned in parliament over the use of pellets, the Home Affairs Ministry said it had explored other non-lethal alternatives to disperse crowds, but that “if these measures prove to be ineffective in dispersing of rioters, use of pellet guns may be resorted to.” In December 2016, the Supreme Court said that the these weapons should not be used “indiscriminately or excessively” in Kashmir and that the authorities should use them only after proper application of mind,” the statement said.