Even as an expert committee appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday recommended the use of chilli-filled grenades and 'stun lac shells' to control mobs in place of pellet guns, a news report has now revealed that the same less lethal alternatives had been approved in 2012 but their acquisition process was never completed.
According to The Indian Express, in 2010, the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called for a search for less-lethal weapons after the violence in Kashmir at that time killed over 100 protesters.
The then PM had called for "a high-power task force" to come up with recommendations. However, a committee which was led by the then home secretary GK Pillai struggled to meet the PM's timeline as the Bureau of Police Research and Development, which was tasked with shortlisting the less lethal equipment available globally, got involved in a dispute with the vendor chosen for the task.
Despite this hurdle, it was announced in 2011 that CRPF's Rapid Action Force was introducing less lethal long-range acoustic devices, capsicain ball rounds and grenades. These are some of the same equipments which the MHA panel has recommended now.
But the procurement process for the less lethal gear ended without explanation in 2012.
“Frankly, I have no idea what happened after I left office...There were people who were quite resistant to new ideas, which is perhaps understandable, so the process was slow. It perhaps petered out as memories of what had happened in 2010 faded," the report quoted Pillai as saying.
On Monday, a seven-member expert committee, headed by Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry TVSN Prasad, submitted its report on the alternatives to pellet guns. The panel was constituted after many protesters were blinded by the use of pellet guns in Jammu and Kashmir.
The use of pellet guns in Jammu and Kashmir has been widely debated, where the death toll in the unrest, which began on 8 July after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, has crossed 65.
Sources had told PTI that Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA), also called Nonivamide, and other non-lethal ammunition like 'stun lac cells' and Long Range Acoustic Device (LARD) which create deafening noise to paralyse people were understood to have been suggested as possible alternatives to the pellet guns.
However, LARD is likely to be used in rural areas as it could prove dangerous for old buildings in downtown Srinagar.
Sources also said that pellet guns, which are being used by security forces for crowd control in Jammu and Kashmir, will not be completely banned but will be fired in "rarest of rare cases".
Senior government functionaries have arrived at this conclusion after extensive consultations with security forces and examining the ground realities in Kashmir Valley.
With inputs from PTI