Pellet raj

Print edition : August 19, 2016

THE Director General of the Central Reserve Police Force, the largest security force deployed in civilian areas, K. Durga Prasad, said on July 25 that the CRPF would continue to use pellet guns in Kashmir. The CRPF personnel had fired 2,223 times from them. A Senior IPS official in the Union Home Ministry said, on July 21, “The use of pellet guns is excessive for controlling crowds.” Non-lethal munitions were supplied to the Army and the CRPF in Jammu & Kashmir every year “but they preferred pellets”. An official cited the riots in Haryana and Gujarat and asked why pellets were used only in Kashmir ( The Telegraph, July 22).

You do not need an “expert committee” to tell you that their use is reprehensible. E.N. Rammohan, former D.G. of the Border Security Force (BSF) who served in Jammu & Kashmir, said, “This is very wrong. Many of those hurt will go blind.”

Here are the figures as of July 24. Casualties, compiled by the Coalition of Civil Society: Killed: 50 civilians, one policeman. Injured: 3,700 civilians; 143 suffered serious injuries; 137 were operated upon; five were referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, for transplants. According to Dr Qaisar Ahmed, Dean of Medical Services, Government of Jammu & Kashmir, 60 lost their eyesight completely. They included a three-year old girl and a four-year-old boy. Among the security forces, according to the Coalition of Civil Society, 1,739 CRPF and J&K Police (Home Department) personnel were injured.

A doctor said, “We have never seen anything of this magnitude. Everyone who came here has pellet wounds above the chest.” This explains the preference for pellet guns. Another doctor at the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital, the leading one, said, “The objective definitely seems to be to kill or maim the person for life.”

Policemen in plain clothes infested hospitals to record the patients’ antecedents “even before we can examine them”. Parents sent some outside the State to escape harassment. “Thirty-six ambulances were damaged by the CRPF and the police, and it was only after the intervention of the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Dr Masood Sanoon, that they allowed the ambulances to move on the streets,” Dr Qaisar Ahmed told Noor-ul-Qamrain, who reported doctors as saying that the two forces “beat the injured as they were being driven” ( The Sunday Guardian, July 17).

Ravi Nair, Director, South Asian Human Rights Documentation Research Centre, wrote an informed article, “The Unlawful use of Pellet Guns”, for The Wire on July 22. He pointed out: “Protests in Kashmir have involved primarily stone throwing from demonstrators and in return gunfire from firearms or pellet guns from police personnel. It is manifestly evident that the indiscriminate and excessive force used by police personnel has no parallel anywhere in India. “Stone throwing does not give police the right to shoot at protesters indiscriminately. Deadly force should only be used when it is unavoidable and in proportion to the crowd’s actions. Proportionality, necessity and calibrated force are key principles governing the use of force within national and international law.…

“The Indian government is violating international standards with its current response to protests in Kashmir. Specifically, the government is violating the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. The Basic Principles state that ‘Law enforcement officials… [must] apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force’. Additionally, provision five states, ‘whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence… (b) minimise damage and injury… (c) ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected person at the earliest moment…’.

“Under Article 3 of the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, ‘law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary’. The Code continues, ‘in general, firearms should not be used except when a suspected offender offers armed resistance or otherwise jeopardises the lives of others’. Furthermore, the introduction to the Code states, ‘Every law enforcement agency should be representative of and responsive and accountable to the community as a whole.’”

A.G. Noorani

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