The manufacturer of pellet guns, used against protesters by armed forces in Kashmir, said they are generally used for hunting. The company added no tests have been conducted regarding their effect on the human body.
Defence Ministry’s Pune-based ammunition factory has said the pellet shots are generally used to scare animals away, protection of crops and hunting. “Ammunition Factory Khadki does not conduct any tests vis-a-vis the effect of the Bore ammunition on the human body,” a letter addressed to the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Director General of Police from the Additional General Manager of the ammunition factory read.
The letter regarding the lethal nature of pellets dated September 6, 2013 was submitted by the J-K government in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday. The state government in response to a plea seeking prohibition of the pellet guns said the weapon is a modern method to deal with crowd control and the use of the cartridges containing 400 or 500 rounded or sharp edged metallic or lead pellets does not violate the provisions of the law guaranteeing protection of life and personal liberty to citizens.
More than 9000 people have been injured during the protests in Kashmir since July 8 and most of them have been hit by pellets. Over 600 people with pellet injuries in eyes have been admitted to the ophthalmology department of Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar. Among the 75 civilians killed during the ongoing protests, many of them died in pellet firing.
The much-criticised pellet guns – technically called 12 Bore Pump Action guns, can contain shots of various sizes ranging from ‘BB’ to 9, with BB being the largest and 9 number the lowest. According to the J-K government, the state police only makes use of number 9 pellets to deal with the protesters.
“The 12 Bore Pump Action Gun is a weapon which is relatively far less lethal than the regular weapons like .303, AK-47, INSAS Rifle,” the state government told the court, warning that in case the pellet guns are not used and instead regular rifles are operated to disperse the protesters, the number of causalities and fatalities could have been much higher.
According to the ammunition factory, there are 616 shots inside the number 9 pellet cartridges that are being used by the J&K Police. The government said the pellets are fired “below the waist line” and regular training is given to police personnel for using the pellet guns.
“However, as the protesters and the members of the agitating mobs are mostly bent or in kneeling position so as to pick up the stones, which they hurl and pelt upon the police personnel and in this position, there is every chance that such protesters would be hit above the waist line,” the government said in the affidavit submitted before a division bench of the court.