HRW asks India to bar forces from using pellet guns in IIOJK

New York, September 04 (KMS): The New York-based international rights watchdog, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has asked the Indian authorities to prohibit its armed forces in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir from using pellet guns to disperse protesters.

The Human Rights Watch in a statement posted on its website said that Indian police and paramilitary forces used pellet firing shotguns as well as teargas shells at a Muharram procession in Srinagar on August 29, 2020, injuring dozens of people.

“Time and again, Indian forces’ use of shotguns in Kashmir has resulted in shocking, grievous injuries of protesters and bystanders,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.

“Indian authorities need to recognize that this weapon fired into crowds, even with violent demonstrators, will invariably cause indiscriminate and excessive injury in violation of international standards,” she added.

“International law bars any use of force, including against protesters, that causes indiscriminate or unnecessary harm,” the statement said. The statement has detailed the use of shotgun fired pellets in Kashmir over the years.

The statement said that the pellets fired from shotguns have caused thousands of injuries, including loss of eyesight, in the decade since Indian authorities first deployed them as an ostensibly “non-lethal” option for crowd control, to replace live ammunition. The move came after over 120 people were killed in Kashmir during weeks of violent protests in 2010, it said.

The HRW said the Indian forces typically use 12-gauge pump action guns to fire cartridges that are filled with dozens or hundreds of small metal pellets, which are sometimes referred to as “birdshot” or “dove shot” to reflect their role in hunting. It said, while initially concentrated in a tight pattern as they are fired, the pellets spread out to create a constellation that can reach a wide radius, causing injuries indiscriminately, including bystanders.

The statement maintained that the Indian authorities have claimed that forces use pellets only when necessary. However, it said, international law bars any use of force, including against violent protesters, that causes indiscriminate or unnecessary harm.

The HRW said, the Indians forces’ use of shotguns in IIOJK has caused deaths as well as injuries. “While there is no accurate data on casualties from shotgun-fired pellets, the Home Affairs Ministry told Parliament in February 2018 that 17 people had died from pellets between 2015 and 2017. According to the data journalism website IndiaSpend, pellets fired from shotguns blinded 139 people between July 2016 and February 2019. In January 2018, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti told the Kashmir Assembly that 6,221 people had been injured by pellets between July 2016 and February 2017 and among them, 782 people had eye injuries,” it added.

The statement said that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has said that use of a shotgun “firing metal pellets is one of the most dangerous weapons used in Kashmir”, and has called for an immediate end to their use for crowd control.

The HRW maintained the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms prohibit the use of those firearms and ammunition that cause unwarranted injury or present an unwarranted risk.

The statement said, “The 2020 UN guidance on “less-lethal weapons” in law enforcement says, “Multiple projectiles fired at the same time are inaccurate and, in general, their use cannot comply with the principles of necessity and proportionality. Metal pellets, such as those fired from shotguns, should never be used.”

Meenakshi Ganguly said the Indian leaders who claim that their policies are improving the lives of Kashmiris cannot disregard that Indian forces are maiming, blinding, and killing people. The Indian government should cease the use of shotguns firing metal pellets and review its crowd control techniques to meet international standards, she added.

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