Much has been written and spoken in the last few days about the pellets that have been responsible in affecting a partial or permanent damage to eyes of scores of protesters in the Valley. If you dismiss the violent protests and their results by saying ‘they asked for it’, you are also saying out loud that you have no idea about the Kashmir Problem.
Burhan Wani was just some militant who died but the protests are not a first time occurrence. You can go back to 2010, 2008 and other times from right after the 1990s to get an understanding that the issue, which has the world’s eyes on it is much bigger, goes deeper to misunderstood depths and needs a political solution as against the chosen one, force! This, however, is a discussion for another day.
Pictures of injured protesters are available in the public domain and quite frankly, should shake anyone in their right mind, irrespective of their preferences or not on Kashmir.
First Question: Who brought these weapons to valley?
If you do not have any access to specialists, research would show you that these weapons, mistakenly called Pellet Guns, were first used for crowd control in 2010 and that is also when they were first imported by the then government. The weapons were introduced as replacement to lethal weapons and the terminology of non-lethal weapons entered the J&K parlance.
What are Pellet Guns and are they aimed directly at a person?
First of all, calling them pellet guns is a misnomer. None of the guns are designed specifically to be ‘pellet guns.’ The gun is a launcher and the ammunition used has pellets. More specifically, the guns used in the valley are 12-bore shotgun and the ammunition or the cartridge used there has about 300 pellets (What we call Charra in vernacular) in it.
Second thing that needs to be understood is that the cartridges or the rounds are not shot straight ever. They are shot at an angle from a distance of 30-50 meters and these cartridges fly at a trajectory.
Third factor to consider is that the cartridges burst when they hit the ground and that is when the pellets, much like splinters come out and hit the object in the way.
The fact of life is that the pellets are hard metal and the object in question is not an object, it is humans.
The Real Problem
These so called non-lethal weapons were introduced during the riots of 2010. This also meant that there was no time for proper training of the men who were using guns with lethal bullets before that. Sadly, the training has not improved much in six years either.
The bigger problem, however, is the absence of training of men in uniform psychologically where they keep their cool and not deviate from standard operating procedures (SOP). It is easy to question or say that the SOP was not followed but another fact of life is that the situation on ground is violent and highly unpredictable.
It has been widely reported that Indian Armed forces are one of the most under-guarded if one is to discuss protective gear. A few men of the security forces stand against hundreds of protesters and stones fly from every direction onto them. Getting hit by stones, trying to protect themselves from getting seriously hurt and then trying to disperse the crowd is not your regular day activity and the situation is more complex than that.
The Bitter Truth: Rubber Bullets Are Not In Use
The pellets have blinded, partially or even permanently, many protesters in the valley. This could have been prevented but the lack of munition-savvy people at the helm of affairs did not allow for the much required change.
Rubber bullets, were initially banned, for instance because they were shaped like bullets earlier. There is a huge variety of rubber bullets today that only lands a hurtful punch and are not lethal. Odd as it is, rubber bullets are still not used in the valley.
The Kashmir issue is a complex one and 40 people have died in a week’s time. There are already reports of a teenager getting killed in Kupwara today. Kashmir is not going to settle down in the coming week but we all hope, that the administration devises a better way to control the crowds.
Kashmir is paradise, and that alone should be reason for a dream of peace and love. The dream needs some real work and we can all hope that someone is working towards that goal.