The use of pellet guns, which led to considerable injuries during street protests in Kashmir last year, is set to make a comeback. Paramilitary forces have found that the less lethal alternative PAVA (pelargonic acid vanillylamide) shells are not really effective in scattering protesters. CRPF Director General K Durga Prasad told reporters Monday that a modified version of the pellet gun will be used to break up any protest before and during anti-militancy operations. “The force has taken the decision to modify pellet guns, with the help of BSF, to minimise injuries,” he said. Pellet guns were widely used in the Valley during the protests that followed the killing of Hizbul militant Burhan Wani in July last year. Hundreds were injured by the pellets, many with serious injuries in the eyes. Following an outcry, the use of pellet guns was stopped, replaced by the chilli-based PAVA shells.
The modified version of the pellet gun will have a “deflector”, an attachment on the muzzle to prevent pellets from ascending. The CRPF has asked a special BSF workshop to deploy a metal deflector on the muzzle so that shrapnels do not strike a person above the abdomen region. CRPF troops in the Valley have been told to fire pellets aiming at the feet of protesters and not the abdomen area. “We have asked our men to fire at the feet now… By using a deflector, there is only a two per cent chance that the shot fired may hit above the point of aim as compared to the rate of 40 per cent earlier,” a CRPF officer said.
Prasad, who retires Tuesday, said: “PAVA shells have a long shelf-life and they are good in certain situations… But we have made it clear that the CRPF man on the ground will use whatever the situation demands.” “The situation is not as sensitive as it was last year… The intensity with which it (stone pelting) happened is no longer there… The situation of stone-pelting on security forces is not as bad as earlier,” he said. According to the CRPF, as many as 2,580 of its personnel were injured, 122 of them grievously, in attacks that followed Wani’s killing. There were 142 incidents of stone-pelting on its camps and 43 instances of attacks with petrol, acid and kerosene bombs.
Prasad said the CRPF has come across situations where local residents have pelted stones on security forces during operations — earlier this month, Army chief General Bipin Rawat had warned Valley residents of tough action if security operations were obstructed — but this was where some local youths had joined militant ranks and were encircled by security forces or residents had been threatened by militants to disrupt operations of security forces. “These incidents are happening… We have been able to contain it. If militants have local support… That is to be ascertained,” he said. Prasad said the negative use of social media and media too was influencing the youth of Kashmir to take up arms. He said it is the responsibility of these platforms to ensure that this does not happen.