The restrained use of pellet guns this year to tackle violent mobs in Jammu & Kashmir has resulted in a sharp dip in deaths and injuries caused by this controversial method of crowd control.
In the 143 instances of pellet guns used across 12 districts of J&K till July 31 this year, one civilian was killed and 36 civilians injured.
In 2016, the use of pellet guns in a total 777 instances across J&K, mostly during protests that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8, had killed 15 civilians and left 396 injured.
District-wise, Srinagar continued to report the highest pellet gun use, having recorded 68 incidents till July 31 this year against 191 in whole of last year. Budgam, which recorded 18 incidents last year in which six civilians were injured, witnessed 12 incidents till July 31, 2017, that left 18 civilians injured (the highest among districts).
Sopore, Baramulla and Shopian, which witnessed 124, 102 and 90 pellet firing incidents in 2016, recorded just one, eight and nil incidents respectively in the first seven months of this year.
In terms of casualties too, Sopore where two persons were killed and 111 injured due to pellet firing last year, reported no casualties this year.
In Awantipora, where 89 were injured last year, just one person was injured this year.
The outrage against pellet guns last year in wake of the serious injuries caused by them, particularly in the eye, had led the government to advise restraint on their use. Also, home minister Rajnath Singh — who is scheduled to visit J&K later this week – set up an expert committee to suggest safer crowd-control alternatives.
However, the committee did not suggest a complete ban on use of pellet guns. As a result, neither has the home ministry banned use of pellet guns, nor has the Supreme Court stayed use of these guns.
“We continue to use pellet guns but only as part of a graded response to mob violence. The stress is on first trying out other less-lethal methods — which include warning the agitated mob followed by use of tear smoke, lathicharge, use of irritant-based PAVA shells and firing of plastic bullets. The idea is to use pellet guns as a last resort. Also, we are now using deflectors on pellet guns to ensure that the pellets hit the target below the waist, minimising injury,” said a senior CRPF officer.
According to the officer, the sharp fall in instances of pellet guns use this year and the minimal casualties caused by them shows that the graded approach to tackling violent mobs in Kashmir is working. “In any case, pellet guns are not exclusively used in J&K. They were used recently in Rohtak, Haryana, to tackle violent mobs after conviction of Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim,” he said.