SRINAGAR: An international human rights group urged India on Wednesday to immediately ban the use of shotguns by government forces in suppressing protests against Indian rule in India-held Kashmir, saying pellets fired by the weapons have blinded and killed people indiscriminately.
Amnesty International also criticised Indian authorities for failing to support those who have been injured and disabled by the weapons.
“Authorities claim the pellet shotgun is not lethal, but the injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is. There is no proper way to use pellet-firing shotguns,” said Aakar Patel, head of the group’s Indian chapter.
Patel said shotguns have caused immense suffering in Kashmir and are not used anywhere else in India. “This weapon has only been reserved for Kashmiris,” he said. “It is irresponsible of authorities to continue the use of these shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do.”
The group issued a report, ‘Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns’, which profiles 88 people whose eyesight was damaged by metal pellets fired by Indian forces between 2014 and 2017, showcasing what it called the “human cost of the government’s heavy-handed crackdown in [India-held] Kashmir”. The report includes 14 female victims who were wounded inside their homes.
Indian authorities did not immediately respond to the report.
“These inherently inaccurate shotguns fire hundreds of metal pellets which spread over a wide area,” the report said. It said pellets alone have killed at least 14 people in a little more than a year since then.
“Authorities have a duty to maintain public order, but using pellet shotguns is not the solution,” Patel said. “Security forces must address stone-throwing or other violence by protesters by means that allow for better targeting or more control over the harm caused.”
He said the government should “immediately stop the use of pellet-firing shotguns and ensure that the use of all other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on use of force.”
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2017