Pellet Guns: A lethal way to control protesters in Kashmir

In 7 days more than 50 youth have been blinded

Business & Politics

News - India & You

July 16, 2016

/ By / Srinagar

India & You

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People in India’s Himalayan region of Kashmir turned to streets protesting against the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen (a militant organisation in Kashmir) commander Burhan Wani along with his two associates, in a joint operation by Indian army and State police. The encounter took place last Friday at Bumdoora village of Kokernag in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

The situation turned out of control after police and paramilitary forces used live ammunition like bullets and pellet guns, in which more than 35 people were killed and over 1500 received injuries.

On the eighth consecutive day there are restrictions on free moment in Kashmir and mobile services have been suspended. Hospitals are flooded with injured people and most of them have bullet or pellet injuries. So far, more than 50 people have lost their eyesight and doctors are not sure if others could recover.

As per the doctors in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS hospital), in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, they have operated more than 130 eye injuries and the chances of eyesight recovery are very low in many cases.

Insha Malik, a 14-year-old girl from south Kashmir’s Shopian district, lying unconscious on a bed at SMHS hospital Srinagar is one of the victims of pellet guns.

Insha stood on a window of her house looking down on to the streets of unrest, violence and turmoil. Little did she realize that within a few minutes she would lose her vision, as she would be hit by pellets.

“She was never a part of any protest. Things were bad on the street and she was at the window when she was hit by pellets”, Mushtaq Ahmad, Insha’s father, told journalists.

Insha was hit on her face, resulting in multiple injuries. Her face was badly injured and her eyes damaged. Doctors have operated on them, but are not sure if she will be able to see again.

A single cartridge can fire hundreds of small iron pellets in a single shot, the particles can pierce deep into one’s body. In the last five days across the Kashmir valley, doctors have performed more eye operations than in last five years.

But they find it extremely difficult to remove all the particles, as the size is too small and they say the remaining portions may further damage the organs.

“The pellet is quite lethal for the eye, which is a soft target, compared to other organs like bones and muscles. Once a pellet pierces the eye, it makes a hole in it and rotates inside. It causes then a lot of damage to the optical tissue and can cause permanent blindness”, Dr. Tariq Qurashi, H.O.D ophthalmology, Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar was quoted by media.

Pellet guns are used as a crowd control tool in Kashmir and have been described by the police as a “non lethal weapon”. Yet, its use has been controversial, as scores of youth have lost their eyesight partially or totally, after being hit by the pellets.

Security establishments in Jammu and Kashmir say they have no other option than using it to control a challenging public demonstration. Unfortunately, the question of alternate modes of protest control on unarmed civilians remains unanswered.

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