Jammu & kashmir

Amnesty highlights dangers of pellet guns, says 16 Army men were hit

pellet-guns-kashmir Representational image | via Commons

Highlighting the dangers of the use of pellet guns, the Amnesty International on Wednesday said apart from civilians, 16 security personnel were injured by pellet guns in Kashmir.

The rights body said the security personnel were hit by pellets that were fired at the protesters.

''We learned through an RTI that 16 security force personnel were injured in Kupwara by pellets,'' said Amnesty's senior campaigner Zahoor Ahmed Wani. ''Other districts didn't cooperate.''

Wani was speaking at a panel discussion on the release of Amnesty's new report on the Kashmir's pellet victims—'Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet Gun Shotgun—in Srinagar that was also attended by senior policy advisor of Amnesty International India Shailesh Rai, executive director Aker Patel and information officer Smriti Singh.

Wani said they met 88 people whose eyesight was damaged by the pellets fired by police and CRPF between 2014 and 2017.

He said only one pellet victim filed an FIR against security forces but his family has no idea whether any action has been taken.

Wani said 31 victims, including 14 women, have lost eyesight completely since 2010 and most of them have received help only from the civil society in Kashmir. The age of the victims range from nine to 65, he added.

''Some of the victims, mostly females, were hit inside their homes. It highlights how dangerous the pellet guns are.''

The Amnesty's campaigner said many pellet victims have developed mental and physical problems and many students have quit studies.

Rai said they reasoned that the trial of personnel accused of rights abuse should be done in civilian courts. ''We have reasoned how a trial by by court martial is flawed...The use of pellet gun is a violation of international law,” he added.

He said pellet guns pose a serious risk to bystanders in a wide area. ''There is no way to control it,'' he pointed out.

Rai said the loss of vision is not proportionate to the harm suffered by the security forces. A veil of secrecy surrounds the use of pellet guns which are 12 bore pump actions guns, he added.

Two pellet victims, Shabrooza Mir and Manzoor Ahmed Dar of Rohmu, Pulwama in south Kashmir were also part of the panel.

Mir said she was hit by a hail of pellets inside her home when she was preparing for her class X exams.

''Now I am not able to read. Whenever I tried to focus on a book it aches'' she said, adding that nobody has come forward to help her. “People come take photos and leave.''

Dar said he was hit when he was inside his house after security forces were chasing some protesters in the village.

''I used to work as a baker before pellets damaged my eyes,'' he said. '' Now the shop has been closed and I am dependent on parents''

Patel pointed out that although incidents of stone pelting happens outside Kashmir as well, but only in Kashmir pellet guns are being used to control protests. ''Protests take place outside also but pellet guns are only used in Kashmir. We have raised this issue with the government,'' he said.

He said they don't agree with the CRPF argument that if the pellet guns are stopped, the only recourse would be bullets.

“The government has also said this by citing the example of recent violence in Haryana in which many people were killed.''

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