These may be early days but a week after being used in the restive Valley, police and central forces have reported that PAVA or pepper shells may not be the ideal “substitute” for pellet guns.
The J&K Police and the CRPF have received reports from at least three districts, where PAVA shells have been used against stone-pelting protesters, that the latest non-lethal crowd-dispersal alternative has shown slow emission rate, low potency and a delayed emission rate once it hits the ground.
The PAVA or pelargonic acid vanillylamide is a synthetic pepper extract which was picked as a non-lethal alternative to pellet guns by a committee appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) — the use of pellet guns led to grievous injuries among scores of Valley residents.
Senior officers of J&K Police told The Indian Express that after using PAVA shells in Kulgam and Patan over the past one week, they have spoken to the BSF, which is manufacturing the PAVA shells, to improvise and make modifications.
Consignments of around 1,000 PAVA shells were given to the J&K Police and CRPF around the same time last week. These are being manufactured at BSF’s facility in Tekanpur, Madhya Pradesh.
S J M Gillani, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range), said: “PAVA has already been used by us in a few operations. In Patan, for instance, I received feedback that they did not result in fast enough crowd-dispersal. While we are happy that there is another non-lethal option available to us, I am sure improvements and modifications will be done by the BSF.”
He said their early reaction to the pepper shells was that they were more effective in enclosed areas and when lobbed from a long distance. “The lingering effect of pepper grenades vis-a-vis tear gas shells on residents of localities where they are being used is also something that could become a matter of concern and will have to be assessed over a period of time,” he said.
CRPF officers said their use of PAVA shells in Nowhatta in Srinagar earlier this week led them to believe that a larger number of pepper shells would have to be used in rapid succession in comparison to the single fire from pellet shotguns.
“In the three days that we used PAVA, we found the potency of the chemical too diluted. There is a crucial delay of a few seconds before its emission begins. While we have not given any official feedback as yet, an early impression is that PAVA’s potency will have to be increased and the problem of delayed and slow emission remedied,” a senior CRPF officer said.
Police and CRPF personnel are carrying both pellet guns and the PAVA shells for crowd-dispersal operations, with clear instructions that the latter should be used as first option.