‘In HR cases, armed forces should always be tried by civilian authorities’ · FIRs filed against pellet victims in most cases · Most women hit by pellets in their homes · State has not taken any action against perpetrators · Some finding reading difficult have given up studies · Govt never gave explicit assurance of banning pellet guns · New narrative from New Delhi needed on justice
‘In HR cases, armed forces should always be tried by civilian authorities’
· FIRs filed against pellet victims in most cases
· Most women hit by pellets in their homes
· State has not taken any action against perpetrators
· Some finding reading difficult have given up studies
· Govt never gave explicit assurance of banning pellet guns
· New narrative from New Delhi needed on justice
Faisul YaseenSrinagar, Sep 13:
Amnesty International (AI) India Wednesday called for complete ban of pellet guns in Kashmir.
In its 109-page report, ‘Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns’, which was released in Srinagar, AI India recommended immediate ban of pellet-firing shotguns to police demonstrations.
It also called for ensuring use of other weapons was in line with international human rights standards on the use of force.
Addressing a news conference, Executive Director at Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel said he does not agree to stone throwing but wants the use of pellet-firing shotguns to come to an end.
Pellet guns were introduced in Kashmir in 2010 to quell a popular uprising during which 128 people, most of them teenagers were killed.
Senior Policy Advisor at AI India, Shailesh Rai said they had been calling for absolute ban on pellet-rising shotguns since 2015 as they violated international human rights standards on the use of force.
The report is based on 88 case studies carrying photographs and quotes of victims and stays clear of using “strong language” against Government of India for its brutal pellet gun use in Kashmir.
It calls for full reparation in line with international standards to those who had been injured by pellet-firing shotguns, and to the families of those killed.
The report says that the use of pellet guns had blinded hundreds of killed at least 14 people since July 2016.
A senior campaigner at AI India, Zahoor Wani said AI India had used the snowball sampling research methodology to prepare the report and found that most of the women hit by pellets had been sitting inside their homes when they were shot at.
The report also called upon initiating prompt, independent and impartial civilian criminal investigations into all incidents where the use of pellet-firing shotguns led to deaths or serious injuries.
“Whenever there is a case of human rights violations, the armed forces should always be tried by the civilian authorities,” the AI India members said.
The report says that school-going boys and girls in Kashmir had lost vision in one or the both eyes, and had difficulty reading, playing with their friends, or watching cartoons while college students had to give up their dreams of pursuing higher education.
“Young men and primary breadwinners of families say they cannot earn a living anymore, and that they are a liability for their families,” the report says.
The report paints a dismal picture of the recuperation of these pellet victims saying that several people had not regained their eyesight despite going through repeated surgeries, and that they were spending considerable amounts on medical treatment.
“Some still have pellets inside their eyes as it is medically risky to remove them,” AI India report says. “Many others show symptoms of psychological trauma, and all of them face every day struggles of dealing with the darkness that has descended on their lives, of having to let go of small pleasures, and of preparing for difficult futures.”
The report calls for providing relevant training on crowd control measures and the use of force and firearms to troops, paramilitary forces and Police, 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.
The AI India members said in most cases, the law enforcement agencies had filed FIRs against the pellet victims while the victims had no idea of whether any action had been taken against the perpetrators.
“The truth is that the State has not taken any action,” the AI India members said.
The report said that while India witnesses protests every day, some of them violent, the pellet firing shotgun had only been used in Kashmir.
Earlier, former chief minister Omar Abdullah questioned why pellet guns and human shields were not used to control mob violence in Haryana, wondering whether GoI had kept them “only for protesting Kashmiris”.
However, Abdullah withdrew his tweets “unconditionally” after deaths were reported in the violence.
“Chilli bombs? Pepper grenades? Pellet guns? Do the forces keep those only for protesting Kashmiris?” Omar had tweeted.
The AI India report says, “India’s Home Ministry has suggested on several occasions that these weapons will be replaced, but those promises have not been kept.”
The report reveals that in response to an RTI query, the State’s Health department had revealed that 16 men of the Jammu Kashmir Armed Police had also been hit by pellets and stressed how risky the ammunition was for bystanders and non-violent protestors when even the policemen could not escape its indiscriminate use.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his August 15 speech had said that change in Kashmir would not come from guns or abuses.
“If the government truly means this, they must end the use of pellet-firing shotguns, which have caused immense suffering in Kashmir,” Patel said at the release of the report which has a cover photo of 14-year-old Insha Mustaq, who was blinded in both eyes due to pellet injuries.
When the incumbent chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti was in opposition, she led a protest inside the Legislative Assembly raising slogans ‘pellet gun sarkar hai hai’ against the then Omar Abdullah-led government.
In power in 2016, her government oversaw the indiscriminate use of the same pellet guns, resulting in injuries to over 15,000 people.
Patel said there was a need for a new narrative from New Delhi on justice, which was missing in Kashmir.
“”The government has never given an explicit assurance on banning pellet guns,” he said.
The photographs of the report have been captured by Sirish Nimmagadda and the report is designed by Mohammed Sajad.