Human Rights

Amnesty launches campaign against pellet guns in Kashmir

Srinagar: Global human rights group, Amnesty International India, has launched a postcard campaign and online petition seeking ban on pellet guns.

The Amnesty International India in an e-mailed statement (January 16) said that the campaign aims to bring people from across Jammu and Kashmir to write postcards to the Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti. “It is shameful that the serious concerns raised repeatedly regarding the use of pellet-firing guns have failed to receive sufficient attention from the state government,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India, adding that pellet-firing pump-action shotguns have been responsible for killing, blinding and injuring thousands of people in the Valley.

The statement added that the “use of pellet shotguns is inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate. These so called ‘non-lethal’ weapons have killed at least 14 people since July 2016. Thousands more have suffered extensive and debilitating physical and psychological harm. It is unconscionable for authorities to continue using pellet-firing shotguns despite being aware of the damage they cause.”

Zahoor Wani, campaigner, Amnesty International India emphasized that through this campaign, they want to send a message to the state government that people of Kashmir want an immediate end to the use of pellet-firing shotguns. “The voices of the victims and those who stand in solidarity with them must be heard.”

The state government recently admitted in the State Legislative Assembly that 6,221 persons had received pellet shotgun injuries, including 782 eye injuries, between July 2016 and February 2017, the statement said.

Amnesty International India, in September last year, released a report, “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns” that documented cases of 88 people whose eyesight was either temporarily or permanently damaged by metal pellets allegedly fired by security forces between 2014 and 2017. The organization also claimed to have obtained information, which suggested that at least 16 Jammu and Kashmir armed police personnel suffered pellet injuries in 2016. Security forces, it said, have used metal pellet-firing shotguns for crowd control in the Valley since 2010. “When pellet shotguns are fired, a large number of small metal pellets spread indiscriminately over a wide area. There is no way to control the accuracy, trajectory or direction of the pellets. Due to their inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate nature, the weapons have a high risk of causing serious and permanent injury to everyone in the area,” the statement said.

Amnesty International Indiafurther said that the use of pellet shotguns in Kashmir violates international standards on the use of force. The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that law enforcement officials may use force “only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty” and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms states that force should only be used when “unavoidable” and law enforcement officials should “exercise restraint” in using force and “minimize damage and injury”, the statement added.