The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has rejected a right to information (RTI) application filed by senior RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak to part with any information on the use of pellet guns while dealing with protesters in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) since July 2016, saying it “is not related to human rights violation.”
The refusal follows Khadki Ordnance Factory (OFK) under the Union defence ministry rejecting a similar plea seeking to know the quantum of sale of the anti-riot weapon pellet gun used by security personnel in J&K on grounds of what OFK called “national security and commercial confidence”.
Nayak, who is with the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), in his RTI application, had sought photocopies of the Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) required to be used by CRPF to disperse stone-pelting mobs in J&K and of SoPs required to be used by CRPF to disperse large assemblages of people other than stone-pelting mobs in J&K.
Filed last month, Nayak had also sought the name and postal addresses of the vendors from whom the anti-riot weapon and relevant ammunition were procured for use in J&K, and their quantity, since July 1, 2016.
Nayak had further sought information about the number of CRPF personnel who suffered injuries while conducting operations in J&K, whether they were paid ex-gratia following injuries, and also the number of those may have been promoted to higher ranks in recognition of their performance.
Claiming that the CRPF's rejection is “problematic”, Nayak, in an email alert to Counterview, says, “The SoPs developed by a government-convened expert committee after a similar period of civilian unrest in J&K in 2010 (which I obtained under the RTI Act in 2012), do not make any mention of allowing the use of pellet guns for dispersing stone pelting mobs.”
Secondly, says Nayak, since OFK stated that it did not manufacture the pellet guns, “CRPF was obviously buying them from some other manufacturer”, insisting, “As these weapons are purchased using the taxpayer's money, every citizen has the right to know from where they buy such weapons.”
Thirdly, as both the Central government and the J&K government had said several well-armed CRPF and other security personnel suffered badly at the hands of the protesters, who mostly pelted stones, Nayak says, “I sought to know the number of CRPF personnel who had suffered injuries.”
And finally, wondering how could CRPF reject information on promotions, Nayak recalls, on July 22, 2016, within two weeks of the eruption of unrest in J&K, a Board of Officers of CRPF recommended the criteria for awarding out of turn promotions to CRPF personnel who showed "extraordinary courage/displayed gallant action during fighting with anti-national/extremist elements."
Comments Nayak, “CRPF seems to think that the SoP for controlling both stone-pelting and non-stone-pelting mobs have no relationship at all to allegations of human rights violations. Despite case after case of innocent bystanders, including very young boys and girls, injured severely by pellets fired by security personnel being highlighted by the media, CRPF does not want to own up responsibility.”
He asks, “When SoPs are kept a secret, how can victim bystanders assess whether the actions taken by the CRPF personnel were excessive or not; how can they make a case for compensation and demand accountability of security personnel who caused them injury for no fault of theirs?”