Kashmir protests: New kind of pellets causing more damage than before

Pellet guns introduced by the state police in 2010 as “non lethal weapon” is being used to quell the protesters in Kashmir.

Written by Adil Akhzer | Srinagar | Published: July 16, 2016 8:13:29 pm
Mother of Tabish Bhat,16, whose eye was damaged after Indian government forces fired pellets at him during a protest shows his damaged eye as he rests on a hospital bed in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Wednesday, July 13, 2016. Hospitals in India's portion of Kashmir are overwhelmed, with hundreds of wounded patients pouring in as the region reels from days of clashes between anti-India protesters and government troops. The violence erupted over the weekend after government troops killed a top leader of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest rebel group fighting Indian rule in the troubled Himalayan region. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin) Mother of Tabish Bhat,16, whose eye was damaged by the pellets rests on a hospital bed in Srinagar. (Source: AP)

While the J&K government called pellets a “necessary evil”, the doctors at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar said the new pellets are sharp edged and irregular — which is causing more damage to the victims.

According to the doctors, they have recently started examining cases in which foreign bodies are of “new” kind.

“For the first time the foreign bodies [pellets] are more irregular and sharp edges which causes more damage once it strikes the eye,” said Dr Sajad Khanday, Ophthalmologist, at SMHS. “Earlier we used to receive pellets which were round and homogenous.”

Another doctor said that the new pellets are more dangerous. “Since these new pellets have sharp edges, it is much dangerous to what we used to see earlier,” said a doctor wishing anonymity. ‘It should be banned.”

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Pellet guns introduced by the state police in 2010 as “non lethal weapon” is being used to quell the protesters in Kashmir. The use of pellet guns since Friday after the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen Commander Burhan Wani is unprecedented, doctors said. J&K government spokesperson and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar earlier told The Indian Express, “We disapprove of it…but we will have to persist with this necessary evil till we find a non lethal alternative.”

Police officials said one cartridge of a pellet gun contains few hundred pellets, which resemble ball bearings. The moment it is fired, the cartridge bursts and immediately throws hundreds of pellet from a single point.

As of Friday, the SMHS hospital recorded 127 people with pellets injuries in their eyes. According to the doctors, 40 people will regain only 5-10 per cent of their vision after they undergo few surgeries in next few weeks, while 50 others are likely to have a “good vision”. “Five victims have lost their eye-sight completely, due to the ruptured globes,” said Dr Tariq Quraishi, who heads the Ophthalmology department at the hospital.

He said that the hospital received four new people with pellet injuries in their eyes from North Kashmir’s Sopore town on Friday. “One of them has pellet in both the eyes. We have done the primary repair and surgeries will be performed again after some time,” said Dr Quraishi. “The three others are stable.”

On Thursday, a team from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) was rushed to Srinagar on the request to Centre by J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

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