Often at the receiving end for killing innocent villagers during operations,the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) the largest force deployed for anti-Maoist operations is mulling use of non-lethal weapons to reduce casualties and also minimise the amount of ammunition that are wasted merely on the basis of suspicion,officers said. The deaths of villagers are often termed as collateral damage by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The CRPF is in the process of procuring the 12 bore sawn-off shot guns for use in jungle warfare so that nobody is killed merely on the basis of suspicion.
Often when our men go for operations in dense jungles they start firing at slightest provocation or even when they notice movement in a nearby bush. Not always,but this has resulted in death of people who have nothing to do with Maoists and who are often used as human shields. By firing from non-lethal weapons we can assure that no innocent person dies. Even if we have fired from our side,the pellets cannot kill the villagers, said a senior officer on condition of anonymity.
The CRPF had started using non-lethal weapons after more than hundred protestors died in Jammu and Kashmir in various stone-pelting incidents three-years-ago. Officers claimed that the number of casualties came down drastically due to the use of these rubber-bullets.
An internal CRPF letter on the utility of these weapons said,In jungle combat it has been repeatedly observed that quite often the troops get suspicious that the Naxals could be hiding in some bushes. But because rifle bullets and grenades carried per person is in limited,they cannot be wasted on every instance of suspicion.
A senior officer said several pellets are fired at one go from these shot-guns,which can help ensure if any armed Maoist cadre is present on the other side,depending on retaliatory fire. Senior officers said it was almost a norm to fire from lethal weapons like AK-47 and recently acquired X-5 rifles of Israeli make.
The force is also acquiring Backhoe Loaders for areas affected by Left Wing Extremism as the path is often rigged by IEDs. We often encounter IEDs,road blocks and other obstacles during operations. Using manpower to remove these obtsacles often involves risk to our own men. The Backhoe Loader will help us remove these obstacles and ensure smooth movement of the troops, said the officer.