By Dilnaz Boga
(For Opinion Maker Special)
In Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) after 76 deaths since January, the state government has moved to introduce non-lethal weapons supposed to minimise the chance of casualty 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.
Last Monday, 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 August 27 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.
On condition of anonymity a doctor at SKIMS said, “The non-lethal weapons are more dangerous that lethal weapons because their target is not specified. This makes it difficult to operate for us as 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 is hit in the abdomen, the entire abdomen has to be opened for the removal of the pellets.”
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 patients in SKIMS have been reportedly hit in the chest. Shopian resident Zubair Ahmed Turey (20), 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 due to a pellet depends on the distance its fired from. “The larger the distance the better it is. If it hits vital organs of the body in close range it could result in death,” he said.
Superintendent of SKIMS, Dr Syed Amin Tabish said that there has been a spurt in the number of pellet injuries in the last few days. He explained, “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% 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.
Currently, the Pepper gun is under trial with the CRPF. Said Tripathy, “The weapon is made in the United States. If it is of use to the CRPF, then we will try it out.” But the police have been seen with the Pepper guns and the Tasers, which are in an “experimental” stage with the CRPF.
A victim of the Pepper gun from South Kashmir said, “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 since the last fortnight, policemen all over the city have been using pepper guns and tasers in the streets to quell protesters.
Dilnaz Boga is a journalist from Mumbai based in Srinagar. She is working as a journalist for Kashmir Monitor in Srinagar and www.Kashmirdispatch.com She has also worked for Hindustan Times as Chief Copy Editor in Mumbai and in Mumbai Mirror as a senior copy-editor. Previously, she has also worked for a city-based newspaper, writing on issues like health, women’s and children’s issues, human interest, civic, education and crime. She has also covered conflicts in Kashmir, the North-East, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra for several publications. She completed her BA in English and Psychology from Sophia College, Mumbai University and her MA in English Literature from Mumbai University. In July 2004, she completed her MA in Peace and Conflict Studies with a distinction on her dissertation ‘Cycles of violence: The impact of human rights violations on the children in Kashmir’ from the University of Sydney in Australia. The following year she shot a documentary in Kashmir on the same subject titled, Invisible Kashmir: The other side of jannat (Heaven), which was screened at film festivals all over the world. She also makes Special Contributions to Opinion Maker.