The Jammu and Kashmir government led by Mehbooba Mufti, in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Kashmir High Court Bar Association seeking a ban on pellet guns, has said that firing pellets on the protesting people “is not unconstitutional” and the use of pellet guns “cannot be banned.”
The PDP-BJP government led by Mufti has been facing severe criticism for the indiscriminate use of metal pellets on the protesters during the ongoing uprising, in which seventy-five people have been killed and thousands injured from both sides.
“It is submitted here that the Hon'ble Court cannot guide the law enforcing agencies to act in a particular way/manner. The court being not an expert does not recommend as to how the law and order situations are to be controlled," J&K government's Advocate General Jahangir Ganaie, through an affidavit submitted in the High Court, has said.
"(The) fundamental rights do not provide for a license to take law into one's own hands. It is only a non-violent protest march, which is a fundamental right of person. It is a settled legal position that the courts have to show deference and consideration to the recommendations of an expert committee. In this view of the matter as an expert committee is seized of the matter and having regard to the fact that the issue of use of pellet gun comes within the realm of maintaining law and order situation," the affidavit reads.
A pellet, made of small metal — usually aluminum — balls, when fired from a short-range pellet gun, can pierce into the body of a person and can cause damage to his or her internal organs or face including eyes.
"The pellet gun is a modern method to deal with crowd control, particularly agitating mobs who resort to heavy stone pelting, rioting, arson, at the instigation of militants and separatists with the intention of causing loss of life of police personnel and those of security forces, besides the public and private property," the affidavit signed by Director General of Police, reads.
The pellet fires have killed at least six people and inflicted injuries on around 1500 people in the last 60 days of public-police clashes. The statistics exclude the number of injuries treated locally. In one of the major hospitals in capital Srinagar, Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Memorial Hospital (SMHS), over 550 people, including a five-year-old boy and a girl have been admitted for the treatment of their eye injuries, medically known as ocular trauma, with the rest of the injured getting medical care in other hospitals and private clinics of Kashmir.
After an outcry over the injuries, the High Court Bar Association has filled a PIL seeking the banning of the gun.
That affidavit has said that in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani on 8 July, the entire Kashmir valley was rocked by “unpleasant events in which thousands of people resorted to violent agitations and attempted to cause loss to the life of police/security forces personnel and that of peace loving citizens, besides causing enormous damage to the public and private property."
"More than 3700 police and security forces personnel (3777 to be precise, till 30.08.2016) have also sustained injuries during the attacks on them by the crowd by using stones and sharp edged weapons and petrol bombs."
"From 08.07.2016 to 30.08.2016, a total of 1522 incidents of violence have been reported across the Kashmir valley which has resulted in the loss of 58 lives, including those of two police personnel. During the same period, a total number of 31 police stations/police posts , 02 Courts, 164 Ambulances and 51 other establishments have been damaged. For the acts of violence during the same period, as many as 1431 FIRs have been registered, 813 persons accused of commission of offences under these FIRs have been arrested and 409 such persons have been detained or bound down by taking bonds under CR.PC.,” the affidavit reads.
"The people have not been compelled to stay indoors. It is only for the protection of the public at large, curfew and restrictions from time to time have been imposed. No one has been deprived of his right to protest peacefully. There is no failure of rule of law."
"Young boys and girls/women are incited and instigated by militants and those having separatist tendencies to resort to violence against the state and in the process these kids and women are used as shields by such miscreants to further their designs of disrupting peace and harmony/law & order."
"The Standard Operative Procedures (SOP) is bing followed in its totality while dealing with the protesters/agitating mob in the valley."
"The use of 12 Bore Pump Action Gun and or use of pellet gun and or use of cartridge containing 400 or 500 lead/metallic/rounded or sharp edged metallic pellets during crowd control is not unconstitutional violating the provisions of the Constitution including Article 21 of the Constitution."
Battling with the growing number of the pellet injuries due to the continuous use of pellets on protesters by security forces, hospital authorities at SMHS hospital have conducted 250 viterectomies (retina surgeries) while over 250 other patients are still waiting for their turns. More than 500 patients, mostly with minor injuries, have also received preliminary treatment at the city hospital. Many people with pellet injuries in the eyes are on the verge of losing eye sight in one or both eyes. Doctors say their numbers can exceed to 100 if proper medical attention is not given to their injuries.
The international human rights advocacy groups, particularly Amnesty International, have called for an end to the use of pellets on protesters as it has the potential to cause serious damage to the body of a person. Under pressure, the state government introduced a new weapon called Chili Pavah or Chili grenade which temporary immobilises a person but have refused to stop the use of pellet guns altogether.