Almost twice as many people died of injuries inflicted by non-lethal weapons used by police and paramilitary forces in J&K in 2016 than by bullets, according to the latest data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2016.
The data shows that 29 civilians died in lathicharges ordered by the J&K Police, while only 15 died due to firing by police and forces, during the protests following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8 last year. The data also shows that 375 civilians were injured in 1,959 lathicharges ordered in the state in 2016 — and 189 in firing.
Overall, 2016 saw a far higher number of people (35) dying during lathicharges across the country than in 2015 (7).
However, the NCRB data also shows that a large number of policemen were injured during these incidents of lathicharge. While 759 civilians were injured during lathicharges across the country in 2016, 4,713 policemen were injured in these incidents. Of these, 4,502 policemen were injured in J&K alone. One policeman — in J&K — died in such incidents.
In incidents of firing, 351 civilians and 727 policemen were injured across the country. As many as 548 of these policemen were injured in Kashmir. It was only in J&K that more people died during lathicharges than due to firing. According to the data, the highest number of civilian deaths (22) due to police firing was reported from Haryana. At least 107 were injured in the state due to police firing in 2016, which saw state-wide protests and arson by Jat agitators demanding quotas in state and central government jobs. Not a single civilian was killed or injured in Haryana due to lathicharges as none was ordered during the entire year, the data shows.
Assam stood out on the list of civilian deaths due to firing — in one incident, 16 civilians were killed and 17 policemen injured. After J&K, UP saw the highest number of lathicharges ordered at 185. Given that “lathicharge” includes all action taken by police to control crowds without firing guns, the data brings into focus the use of pellet guns and other less lethal weapons by security forces to control protesters in the Valley last year.
Following the outrage over the casualties and blindings caused by pellets, the government set up a committee to look into better ways of controlling crowds. The committee recommended lesser use of pellet guns and use of more powerful tear gas shells instead.
Over the last year, the CRPF also modified their pellet guns with a flat guard extending over the barrel to prevent pellets from hitting upper parts of the body. According to NCRB, police firing and lathicharge were resorted to control crowds during riots, self-defence and to effect arrests, among other reasons.