NEW DELHI: Apprehending a ‘hot’ summer in the Valley, the Central Reserve Police Force has revisited the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to deal with stone-pelting crowds that propose non-lethal munitions and improvised pellet guns to minimise eye injuries.
“The SOPs have been revised and the successful measures are being further fine-tuned and the redundant measures have been done away with. Accordingly, bulk orders have been placed to procure non-lethal crowd-control munitions,” said a senior CRPF official.
Pellet guns will now be used only in extreme situation and after exhausting an array of other munitions besides water cannons. The pellet guns that will be used this summer have already been modified so as to avoid injury above the waistline. The improvised pellet guns have been fitted with deflectors to ensure it does not hit upper part of the body.
Outgoing CRPF DG K Durga Prasad said Tear Smoke Unit, Gwalior that manufactures various munitions, recently provided them with deflector-fitted pellet guns and the tests gave them satisfactory results.
“We have used it in three places in Kashmir and most of the time it hits lower limbs. Earlier, it used to hit vital areas, including chest, heart, lungs, eyes and forehead. We are sure nobody will die or get blinded once it is introduced formally, he said on the sidelines of his farewell function.”
In 2016, the use of pellet guns by security forces had blinded 300 persons who were part of the violent mobs targeting security personnel after the violence that erupted following the liquidation of the Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani. As many as 122 CRPF personnel were critically injured due to stone pelting by the mobs backed by terror groups.
As many as 2,580 CRPF personnel sustained mild to moderate injuries due to the hits from the stone pelters.
In keeping with the revised SOP, the CRPF is procuring plastic shell tear smoke, stun grenades, colour smoke grenades, rubber bullets, dye-marker grenades with irritant and muti-tier tear gas launchers to control .
“We did use water cannons and some less lethal munitions initially but it did not bring the desired result. From this year the force has been asked to make capacity utilisation of these munitions,” said Prasad in his farewell address to the mediapersons.
Prasad said the situation in Kashmir is not as bad as it was made out to be. “Stone pelting is on the rise and what is worrying is local boys are becoming militants.”
On a question on the recent statement by Army chief General Bipin Rawat that stone pelters would be treated as “aides of the jihadis” and people who try to disrupt terror operations in the Valley will be treated as over ground workers of terrorists and would be fired upon, Prasad said: “The CRPF’s job is to maintain law and order."
Following an uproar over eye injuries caused by pellet guns, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had ordered CRPF in November to procure less lethal munitions and also cleared the use of chilli balls (chilli grenades or PAVA shells) to control crowds in the Valley as an alternative to pellet guns.
CRPF sources said the order for all the less lethal munitions has been placed last month with BSF’s Tear Smoke Unit in Gwalior. TSU functions under the home ministry and makes all the non-lethal mob-control munitions for security forces except for pellets.
Inputs with the Centre suggest the coming summer season will witness a spike in law and order situations in the Valley coupled with increase in infiltration along LoC.