The NDA government is not in favour of completely withdrawing the use of pellet guns in the Kashmir valley, their use will be regulated instead, at least two senior government officials said on Monday.
A seven-member expert committee headed by T.V.S.N Prasad, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that was constituted on July 26 to look into the alternatives to pellet guns has been submitted to the Home Secretary.
“There will be no blanket ban on the use of pellet guns. At the most, it will be used in rarest of rare cases. We cannot make our security forces a sitting duck,” said a top government official.
Chilli grenades as an alternative
The other alternative that the committee has suggested is the use of chilli grenade shells. The committee also explored the use of acoustics but it was not found fit to be used in the Kashmir context as they have not been found to be a viable option wherever used.
“The primary goal is crowd control. The pump action guns from which pellets are fired are here to stay. From now on, the pellets will not be of metal but of soft material like polymer, soft plastic, rubber and even paper. The Ordnance Factory Board, which manufactures the pump action guns has been asked to produce the other types of pellets as well,” said one of the members of the committee.
As reported by The Hindu on August 21, the committee was exploring various options like enhancing the intensity of tear gas shells, using chilli powder and rubber bullets in place of pellet guns.
The Border Security Force (BSF) has already been asked to supply chilli grenades, capsicum laced tear gas smoke shells to the Kashmir valley for effective crowd control.
“We do not want people to lose their lives and that is why these alternatives were being used. The security forces already have tear gas shell guns and they only require enhanced grenades, which the BSF will supply,” said another home ministry official.
Backlash on CRPF
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which has been deployed in the valley to assist the state police for crowd-control informed the Jammu and Kashmir High Court recently that it had fired 1.3 million pellets from pump action guns from July 8-August 11. More than 400 people have been injured due to pellet guns to control the violence which erupted after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter on July 8.
The government is facing severe criticism for using the pellet guns and several political parties have asked for its complete withdrawal.
During his two-day visit to Kashmir on August 24-25, Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said an alternative to pellet guns will be given to security forces in the coming days.
“In the coming few days, we will give an alternative to the pellet guns. These guns were earlier considered non-lethal but some incidents have taken place… We formed an expert committee a month ago which was expected to give report in two months but it will be coming very soon,” he had said.
An expert committee constituted by the government, which submitted its report to the home ministry on Monday has recommended withdrawal of metal pellets and replace them with polymer, rubber and paper bullets, a top government official told The Hindu. The committee also explored the Vehicle Mounted Active Denial System (VMADS) developed by the U.S military but declined to use it as it works on millimetre wave technology, which immobilises the body and its health implications are not known yet.