The state government, after 76 deaths of civilians in unarmed protests, recently moved to introduce non-lethal weapons to its forces – weapons supposed to minimize the chance of casualties during street demonstrations in the Valley. However, these non-lethal weapons have failed to produce the desired results. In fact, a week after they were introduced, Srinagar saw its first casualty.
Sopore resident Danish, who was in his early twenties, got hit by a pellet in his abdomen and chest. He succumbed to his injuries at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) in Soura. On 27 August in Shopian, 30 to 40 people received pellet injuries during protests and were referred to Srinagar. The police also confirmed that 40 people suffered wounds because of pellets.
According to a doctor at SKIMS, ‘The non-lethal weapons are more dangerous than lethal weapons because their target is not specified. This makes it difficult for us to operate – the injuries are scattered all over the body. In addition, due to the small size of the pellet, it is hard to remove it from the body.’
The doctor added, ‘If the pellet hits the abdomen, the entire abdomen has to be opened for the removal.’
The Public Relations Officer of the Central Reserve Police Force, Commandant P Tripathy, while commenting on the introduction of the pellet or pump gun, said: ‘The pump gun is a 12 bore weapon, made in India. It is a non-prohibited bore, which releases a bunch of pellets upon fire. The metal pellets are of a fixed size. If we aim it below the belt, like we are supposed to, then the pellets reach up to the thighs.’
But victims have been reportedly hit in the chest. Shopian resident Zubair Ahmed Turey, the 20 year-old son of Bashir Ahmed Turey, is suffering from pellet injuries, from his foot right up to his face. Currently recuperating at SKIM, Zubair is grappling with injuries in his foot, abdomen, liver, arm and face. Another patient by his side received injuries in his ear.
Elaborating on the specifics of the newly introduced gun, Tripathy added, ‘It is a non-lethal weapon, so the injury is temporary.’ However, Tripathy says that the nature of the injury depends on the distance it the weapon is fired from. ‘The larger the distance, the better it is. If it hits vital organs at close range it could result in death.’
Superintendent of SKIMS, Dr Syed Amin Tabish, told Kashmir Dispatch that there has been a spurt in the number of pellet injuries recently: ‘If pellets hit muscles then it’s not a problem, but if they hit the eye or the brain or a blood vessel that could be problematic. Out of 80 odd cases, we can say that 5 per cent of these patients have been hit in the vital organs.’
The state government has also provided the men in uniform with tasers and pepper guns to deal with protesters. The pepper gun is currently under trial with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). But the police have already been seen with both pepper guns and tasers, the latter of which are in an ‘experimental’ stage with the CRPF.
A victim of the pepper gun explained: ‘It’s like tear gas, it bursts. You get a burning sensation over your body and the skin turns red. The smoke contains pepper powder. It irritates your eyes and breathing becomes very difficult.’
Sources from the police department confirmed, that police officers all over the city have been using pepper guns and tasers in the streets to quell protesters.