A committee, set up to find alternatives to pellet guns in the Kashmir Valley, on Monday suggested use of chilli-filled grenades and ‘stun lac shells’ to control mobs in addition to the debatable weapon being used now.
Pellet guns are, however, unlikely to be completely banned but will be fired in “rarest of rare cases”. The seven-member expert committee, headed by Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry T V S N Prasad, submitted its report today.
The panel was constituted after scores of protesters were blinded by the use of pellet guns in the Valley. The report for exploring the other possible alternatives to pellet guns as non-lethal weapons was submitted to Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi here, an official spokesperson said.
However, the spokesperson did not elaborate about the findings of the expert committee.
Sources said Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA) also called Nonivamide and other non-lethal ammunition like ‘stun lac cells’ and Long Range Acoustic Device (LARD) which create deafening noise to paralyse people were understood to have suggested as possible alternatives to the pellet guns.
However, LARD is likely to be used in rural areas as it could prove dangerous for old buildings in downtown Srinagar. Sources said pellet guns, which are being used by security forces for crowd control in Jammu and Kashmir, will not be completely banned but will be fired in “rarest of rare cases”.
Senior government functionaries have arrived at this conclusion after extensive consultations with security forces and examining the ground realities in Kashmir Valley. The option of firing pellet guns will remain but these will be used only in rarest of rare cases, the official said.
The government is facing severe criticism for using the pellet guns for crowd control in Kashmir Valley as the weapon has caused large-scale injuries in the 51-day unrest following killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on July 8.
The expert committee also recommended Standard Operating Procedures for deployment of this new assortment of non-lethal weapons. During his two-day visit to Kashmir on August 24-25, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said an alternative to pellet guns will be given to security forces in the coming days.
“In the coming few days, we will give an alternative to the pellet guns. These guns were earlier considered non-lethal but some incidents have taken place… We formed an expert committee a month ago which was expected to give report in two months but it will be coming very soon,” he had said.
‘PAVA shells’, a chilli-based ammunition, is less lethal and immobilises the target temporarily. The committee held a demonstration of the newly-developed shells at a test field earlier this week and gave the thumbs up for use by security forces for crowd control and during protests like those being witnessed in the Kashmir Valley in place of the pellet guns which have caused grievous injuries and large-scale blinding.
The ‘PAVA shells’, as per the blueprint prepared in this regard and accessed by PTI, were under trial for over a year at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory in Lucknow, and its full development has come at a time when Kashmir is on the boil.
Sources close to the committee said it has favoured ‘PAVA shells’ as an alternative to pellet guns and has recommended that the Tear Smoke Unit (TSU) of the BSF in Gwalior should be tasked with bulk production of the shells “immediately”, with the first lot not of less than 50,000 rounds.
The other members of the expert committee include Atul Karwal, IG, CRPF, Srinagar, Rajeev Krishna, IG (Ops.), BSF, Rajesh Kumar, IPS, J&K Police, Tushar Tripathy, IOFS, DDG, Small Arms, OFB, Manjit Singh, Director, TBRL, Chandigarh and Naresh Bhatnagar, Professor, IIT Delhi.