Amnesty International India Wednesday sought an immediate ban on the use of pellet guns as a crowd-control measure in Kashmir, asserting that violence in any form, including stone-pelting, was not acceptable. The rights body released a report, “Losing Sight in Kashmir – The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns”, here and urged the Jammu and Kashmir government to initiate a prompt, independent and impartial probe into incidents, where the use of pellet guns led to deaths or injuries.
The report named 88 people, who were injured by pellets fired by security forces to quell protests in the Valley between 2014 and 2017. Of them, 31 suffered injuries to both the eyes, with two of them losing their vision completely, the report said. Speaking on the occasion, the executive director of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, demanded that the central and state governments ensure “the weapons are used in line with international human rights standards”.
“Pellet guns are only used in Jammu and Kashmir and not anywhere else in India. We have raised the issue with the government and it has assured us that they will be used only in extreme situations. We were told that the government understands that the damage caused by pellets is disproportionate,” he said. Patel said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his Independence Day speech last month, had conceded that change in Kashmir will not come from guns or abuses.
“If the government truly meant what it said, it must end the use of pellet-guns,” he said. The executive director condemned stone-pelting too. “We are against any form of violence, but that does not mean that if people resort to stone-pelting, they should be blinded,” Patel told reporters, adding that if investigation suggest use of arbitrary force, the suspects should be tried in civil courts.
He said apart from the civilians, about 16 security personnel suffered pellet injuries, to emphasise that such weapons are inherently indiscriminate and their use can hurt police and armed forces personnel. The report also recommended full reparation in line with international standards of those injured by pellets and the families of those who were killed.