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  India   The ‘non-lethal’ weapon that maims and blinds

The ‘non-lethal’ weapon that maims and blinds

| YUSUF JAMEEL
Published : Jul 20, 2016, 1:31 am IST
Updated : Jul 20, 2016, 1:31 am IST

Danish Ahmed Jhat, a 22-year-old youth from Srina-gar’s Rainawani locality, was brought to the city’s government-run Sri Mah-araj Hari Singh hospital on Sunday evening after a cartridge — full of high

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Danish Ahmed Jhat, a 22-year-old youth from Srina-gar’s Rainawani locality, was brought to the city’s government-run Sri Mah-araj Hari Singh hospital on Sunday evening after a cartridge — full of high-ve-locity ball bearings made of lead — fired from a police pellet gun, pierced his eye.

He had suffered “grievous” injury and all efforts by the ophthalmologists to save his vision, failed.

 

“One of his eyes was already gone and the cartridge had pierced it in such a way that his second eye too had been badly affected. He has lost vision in both the eyes forever,” said a senior ophthalmologist at the SMHS who has preserved the cartridge for any future scrutiny.

Danish, who can barely talk due to pain and discomfort said, “The CRPF had just withdrawn from the area and I, like others, was getting very bored and frustrated after having stayed indoors for days due to curfew. So I decided to go out for a quick evening walk,” he said. Before returning home, some of his mohalla friends and he sat on the pavement of a closed shop for a chat. “Suddenly we saw a security force vehicle moving fast towards us. Some boys fled and disappeared in the alleyways. I heard a group of youth standing at a distance jeering at the security personnel. One of them (securitymen) took out his gun and opened fire. I was hit with something very hot and hard in the eye and when I regained consciousness, I was laying here (on the hospital bed),” he recalled.

 

Pellet guns were first introduced to Kashmir by duck-hunting British expeditions and would often be referred to as “chara bandook” in local jargon.

In 2010, the Jammu and Kashmir police came up with a contemporary version of the weapon, presenting it as “non lethal” to quell the protesters who often take to the streets in Srinagar and elsewhere to vent their political feelings and frustration and habitually engage the men in khaki in stone-pelting.

The other “non lethal” weapons the J&K police and other central security forces have introduced in the Valley are pepper sprays and taser guns.

It is mainly the use of pellet guns by the security forces, that has led to maiming and blinding, that has come under severe criticism at home and abroad with human rights groups making fervent appeals for discontinuing the use of this so-called “non-legal weapon.”

 

Srinagar’s SMHS hospital alone received 167 pati-ents with eye injuries cau-sed due to the use of pellet guns in the last 11 days. Ophthalmologists have, so far, conducted 140 surgeries for such patients and 80 of them have been sent home. “Among the remaining badly injured patients are 13 of those who have lost their vision in one or both eyes,” said a senior ophthalmologist at the SMHS.

Dr Khurshid Aalam Wani, the senior-most specialist surgeon and the head of department of surgeries at Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medi-cal Sciences said, “Overall what we have seen is that people are being targeted to be killed. Most people had been hit either in their head or abdomen. They (police) are not shooting them in their legs.”

 

He also said, “The damage is enormous. People have been inflicted by lethal weapons... We also have a number of cases in which people have been absolutely incapacitated as they have suffered serious gunshot wounds to their internal organs.”

Pellets are made of metal may or may not be covered by a 1 or 2 mm rubber coating to minimise impact. Both can maim and even kill if shot from close range and if aimed at any vital organ or the skull.

Doctors who are attending to those hit in pellet firing across the Valley have said that both J&K police and the CRPF are using bare-metal pellets.

Police sources said they are shot from a 12-bore gun armed with a cartridge that can carry as many as 600 pellets, slightly larger than a grain of sand in size, and sprayed out in every direction at high speeds of over 1,000 feet per second. Usually, when fired, it sprays and does not shoot pellets but, in rare cases, such as Danish’s, a cartridge full of pellets can pierce the bodies of the target or whoever is in the way.

 

There are scores of patients who lie on hospital beds with swollen and disfigured faces and other parts of body. Many have tiny pieces of metal shrapnel — the pellets — pierced in their head, chest and other parts of their bodies, visible only in X-rays.

Location: India, Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar