Amnesty International demands ban on use of pellet guns in Kashmir
By Fayaz Wani | Express News Service | Published: 13th September 2017 09:03 PM |
SRINAGAR: Two days after Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the pellet guns were now being sparingly used in Kashmir, the international human rights watchdog Amnesty International India Wednesday called on Government of India (GoI) to stop the use of pellet guns in Kashmir.
Executive Director of Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel, released the report, “Losing Sight in Kashmir, The Impact of Pellet Guns”, here today. The report has documented 88 cases of people, whose eyesight was damaged by pellets between 2014 and 2017 in security forces firing in Valley.
Their lives have changed entirely, and they are struggling to cope, states the report.
According to Amnesty report, pellet gun has been responsible for blinding, killing and traumatizing people in Kashmir, where security forces have been using pellet guns since 2010.
These inherently inaccurate shotguns (pellet guns) fire hundreds of metal pellets, which spread over a wide area and their use has blinded hundreds and killed at least 14 people since July 2016, it said.
Over 8000 people had sustained pellet injuries, most in eyes, in security forces firing during over five month long unrest in Valley after Hizb commander Burhan Wani’s killing on July 8, 2016.
According to the Amnesty report, school-going boys and girls have lost vision in one or both eyes, and have difficulty reading, playing with their friends, or watching TV.
“College students have had to give up their dreams of pursuing higher education. Young men and primary breadwinners of families now cannot earn a living anymore as they are now a liability for their families,” it said.
Several people, the report said, have not regained eyesight despite going through repeated surgeries, and are spending considerable amounts on medical treatment. “Some still have pellets inside their eyes, because it is medically risky to remove them.”
According to the report, many show symptoms of psychological trauma and all of them face everyday struggles: of dealing with the darkness.
“This is the human cost of the government’s heavy-handed crackdown in Kashmir,” it said.
The report said the manner in which the pellet guns were used in Kashmir violate international standards on the use of force. “Law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty”.
The Amnesty International India, according to the report, also obtained information through Right to Information (RTI) applications from the police, which suggests that the use of the inherently inaccurate pellet-firing by security forces has injured other security force personnel.
At least 16 personnel from the Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police were treated for pellet injuries in border district of Kupwara in 2016, the report said adding the group had sought further information from J&K police and CRPF but those were not provided by the security agencies.
The Amnesty report recommended that government should immediately stop use of pellet-firing shotguns in the State and ensure that use of other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on the use of force.
It also recommended full reparation in line with international standards be provided to those, who have been injured by pellet-firing and to the families of those killed.
“This must include adequate compensation and rehabilitation, including any medical and psychological care that may be needed,” it recommended.
The Amnesty report also sought prompt, independent and impartial civilian criminal investigations into all incidents where the use of pellet-firing led to deaths or serious injuries to establish whether arbitrary or excessive force was used, and where sufficient evidence is found, prosecute those suspected of responsibility in civilian courts.
The report recommended that government should provide relevant training on crowd control measures and the use of force and firearms to security force personnel of J&K police and paramilitary forces as laid out in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.