Skip to main content

Non-lethal injuries? Pellet guns have led to major "public health crisis" in Kashmir

Hiba, youngest pellet gun victim
By Jitamanyu Sahoo*
At a first glance, their scars will appear as pitted marks. Their eyes padded and bruised. Some of the eyes are closed as they are scared of their own vision; some of the eyes are open but their vision is blurred. Kashmir’s men, women and children are gazing at nothing. They are staring at the darkness that surrounds them in life, as they have been partially or fully blinded by pellets.
In November 2018, 18-month Hiba became the youngest pellet victim, whose right eye had been extensively damaged because of the metallic ball fired by the security forces. Intervention by two human rights activists from Kashmir, Syed Mujtaba and Mirza Beg, demanding compensation and independent investigation brought this horrific incident to attention of the authorities.
But with sheer lack of apathy by the state government her loss of vision was compensated by a meagre sum of Rs 1 lakh. The questions then we need to ask to the state today, “Why? What was Hiba’s fault? Why have they ruined this child’s future?”

Scale of the problem

The state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has suffered waves of intense unrest and sporadic violence since 1947. But pellet guns were introduced as “non-lethal weapons” into Kashmir as a method of crowd control due to the rise of civil unrest in 2010. According to Amnesty International in 2010, pellet guns have reportedly killed 14 people in Kashmir.
However, since 2016, following the renewed unrest in Kashmir after Burhan Wani’s killing more than 80 people were killed and over 20,000 people were injured by pellet guns. Billy Perrigo in
“Time” laments that the ammunition used in these guns are not designed for crowd control but are commonly used by hunters.
Siddharth David, placing reliance on his studies argues, “Usually, (pellets) have a range of around 45 metres and hence are stipulated to be shot only from a distance beyond 50 metres. If used at closer ranges, the pellets do not have enough time to disperse and travel in a compact group which move at very high velocities, making them extremely harmful, almost behaving like hand gun bullets, enough to penetrate deep and cause severe damage to bone and tissue.”
The United Nations’ “Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials” and India’s own laws on crowd control have specific directions on how to use Force and Firearms in crowd control. But subsequent reports have highlighted that these conditions are not adhered to in stressful situations in managing the unrest. The arbitrary and abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials in violation of the international standards have led us to a situation we have never witnessed before in the valley.
The truth is more than 1.7 million pellets have been fired by the security forces which has been admitted before the J&K High Court seeking ban on use of weapons.
The truth is under the garb of “non-lethal" weapons pellet guns are justified by the state to be more humane and acceptable instruments of crowd control. The truth is, our own citizens are blinded, injured and maimed by their own state.

Why should one care?

Today the use of pellet guns has given rise to a new public health concern which is constructed by our own state actions. We are grappling at this very moment with a health crisis in Kashmir which is having far-reaching human costs.
According to the clinical studies by Dhar and Wani, one-third of the injury sites of the survivors and victims of pellets were the lower limbs, one-fourth hitting the head region. The study further mentions one-third of the survivors of ocular pellet gun injuries in Kashmir permanently lost their eyesight.
In addition the outcomes of these catastrophic injuries documented in the literature are amputations, permanent disability or loss of life. Apart from physiological and psychological damage, the costs for treatment, disability costs and loss of livelihoods pose a life-long economic burden on the survivors. The bystanders who are not participant to the unrest are also caught in the midst of pellets. The lethal use pellet guns have dramatically affected the health landscape in the valley adding to the already loaded health burden.
The Amnesty International report ‘Losing Sight in Kashmir’ states, “People injured by pellet-firing shotguns have faced serious physical and mental health issues, including symptoms of psychological trauma. School and university students who were hit in the eyes said that they continue to have learning difficulties. 
Several victims who were the primary breadwinners for their families fear they will not be able to work any longer. Many have not regained their eyesight despite repeated surgeries.’ The report have elucidated that the use of pellets have triggered a security and public health crisis in Kashmir.”

Re-thinking public health policy

It is impossible to separate the question of why we should care about the impending public health crisis of pellet gun cases from the questions of what human rights imply about health and being human. The blind application of pellets by the state has left J&K itself in a flux with the absence of coping mechanism. The health priorities and heath utility today in the state have not accounted for the ever expanding injuries of their own targeted citizens.
The complexity of the healthcare systems have witnessed tremendous pressure in treating the pellets victims and finding it difficult to do follow up. 
The unanticipated consequences and the difficult conditions under which overwhelming number of children and young people were brought in emergency situations have put burden on the health providers. In consequences of which the socio-economic burden has taken a surge restricting people to live lives of dignity, to be free and equal citizens.
The prevailing trends to use disease protocols, financial levers, and siloed programmes to manage the health care system are fatally flawed and will lead to unintended consequences. 
The health policy in J&K needs to take into account the quality of care and reduce healthcare variations, it must address the socio-economic disparities in the treatment of pellet victims, the cost of loss of livelihood and sharing of responsibility of patient care needs to be burdened by the state.
My objection is on the ethics of the use of pellet guns by our security forces. The use of pellets has caused pain and agony to our own citizens, but whether the security forces deliberated on other option is something which needs to be ascertained. 
The opaque promises made by the government to set up panels to consider alternatives to pellets for crowd control have led to social-disorder in the valley. Moreover, the state today must acknowledge it is in the nub of a public health crisis resulting from political and policy miscalculation.
The use of pellets and its ramifications is tearing down our democracy. The bodily injury and mass debilitation have led to humanitarian collapse in the valley. To puncture the resistance and breaking the will of the people by violating all the norms of human rights is political contamination.
Each and every time pellets are fired on an unarmed protester, humanity loses its vision. Today we must use rights-based approach to address this fundamental health reality in Kashmir. Moreover, a public health discourse on the glaring health crisis in the valley must be activated.
---
*Human rights activist, litigator and independent researcher with interests in health law, and policy on peace and conflict studies

Comments

Anonymous said…
We should request with folded hands to the public throwing stones at Army to please not do so and distribute sweets and flowers to them . And request them with folded hands not to snatch our weapons and not attack men in uniform .
This is separatist propaganda . I am paid to have loyalty to the Govt of India and execute all orders as given . Not to hear the story of stone pelters. We will fire in self protection . And will fire the weapon ordered to with the ammunition provided to us. We didn’t buy these weapons out of our own pocket .
Anyone willing to support the life and limb of a soldier also or all Human rights are for stone pelters and separatists ?

TRENDING

Corporate-political party nexus? Rise and rise of Gautam Adani under Modi regime

By Sandeep Pandey*  In last five years Rs 10,09,510 crore taken as loans by various companies from banks in India have been declared as Non Performing Assets, an euphemism for writing them off. Out of this State Bank of India alone wrote off Rs 2,04,486 crore. Only about 13% of the total written off amount was recovered. Identity of the defaulting borrowers, most of whom are influential corporates, is not revealed. Compare this to the loans taken by farmers. The names of defaulting farmers is displayed on walls in tehsil offices to shame them and some unlucky ones also land up in lock-ups there. On the contrary, a few corporate defaulters have fled the country and quite curiously the authorities didn’t seize their passports like they do with some dissenting intellectuals or activists booked under mostly false cases. Now consider the donations received by political parties in the form of electoral bonds. The identity of the donor need not be revealed even to the Election Commission or i

'Extremist' US Hindu global group funding hate against Indian Churches: NGO groups

Counterview Desk  As many as 14 civil rights and faith-based organizations in co-signing a letter to the US Senators, Representatives, State Governor, and other elected officials have demanded the FBI, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and Department of Justice should investigate into Texas-based organization Global Hindu Heritage Foundation (GHHF) a fundraiser campaign for demolishing churches in India. Co-signed by Federation of Indian American Christian Organization in North America (FIACONA), North American Church of God, Southern Methodist University (SMU) Human Rights Program, Amnesty International - Dallas, World Without Genocide, Center for Pluralism, Genocide Watch, The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), Limitless Church, Justice for All, Hindu for Human Rights, North Texas Peace Advocates, Good Citizens of DFW, and the North Texas Islamic Council, the letter has been sent to Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Representatives Michael C Burgess, Pat Fallon, Van Taylor, Terr

Carbon abatement to tackle climate change: India's failure has 'outpaced' its success

By Satorupa Karmakar*  On November 01, 2021, India took a pledge of reaching a carbon-zero stage by 2070, at the COP-26 held in Glasgow, UK. As ‘ambitious’ and dubious it may sound to some, with a short-term delay in renewable energy generation (which gained the pace post-September 2020) and drastic fall in greenhouse gas (GHG) emission level as COVID-19 emerged as a ‘necessary evil’ , the path of India’s clean energy mission could be seen being paved throughout this time. Currently ranked as the third largest GHG emitter in the world, India is projected to demand more energy in coming years due to a large population base (1.3 billion as per 2011 Census data) and primarily coal-based fast-growing economy. Rapid industrialisation in post-colonial developing countries like India, stimulated by a larger and cheaper pool of fossil fuels and labour-force depicted a continuous upsurge in temperature, heavy precipitation in some places with an overall declining rainfall and a burgeoning soc

BJP-RSS trap opposition in 'futile row' around Savarkar, freedom movement

By Prem Singh*  Everything in this article is just a repetition. I have been saying all this since 1991-92. It is obvious that the Congress and the RSS/BJP do not like my ideas. But most socialists, advocates of social justice and communists also dislike my thoughts. I watch their measures and efforts to deal with the present crisis with interest. I respect them and also participate. Yet, the fact it, we fall behind again and again, and the crisis goes ahead. Instead of being a solution-providers, we are seen to be a part of the crisis. How long will this last? Perhaps, if the new generation thinks differently, things may turn for better! 1 To say that modern Indian society and politics are passing through the deepest crisis ever will surely be a repetition. The crisis is deeper than the spreading of communal hatred we witness around us. In fact, the business of communal hatred is flourishing by taking its manure and water from the deep crisis. The crisis of neo-colonial slavery is pro

Demand to withdraw 'anti-environment, anti-adivasi' forest conservation rules 2022

By Gopinath Majhi*  The Campaign for Survival and Dignity (CSD), Odisha, a coalition of adivasis and forest dwellers’ organisations, has sent a memorandum to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) raising serious concerns over Forest (Conservation) Rules, 2022, notified by the Centre on June 29.  Contending that recent amendments and a host of executive orders/guidelines issued by the ministry undermine and dilute the FRA and threaten the rights of adivasis and forest dwellers, CSD demands that the 2022 FC Rules should be rescinded forthwith. Demanding withdrawal of such anti-people and anti-environment rules CSD Odisha organised a protest Dharana in front of State Assembly today on 25th November 2022 and submitted memorandums to the Hon’ble Governor of Odisha, Chief Secretary and Commissioner-cum-Secretary, ST & SC Development Department for conveying our concerns against the FC Rules 2022 to the Central Government for its withdrawal. The memorandums w

GM mustard not swadeshi, it's a patent of MNC Bayer, GoI 'misleading' SC: Modi told

Counterview Desk  In a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as many as 42 farmers’ organisations though their representatives , backed by senior scientists and experts, have said that the Government of India (GoI) should stop misleading the Supreme Court “with untrue and incorrect” statements on GM mustard. Insisting that India does not need unsafe GM mustard, in their representation, they urged the Supreme Court to order immediate uprooting of GM mustard crop in various locations. The representation comes even as a penal of experts, coming down heavily on the GoI for refusing to see how in less than a week’s time the pollen from GM mustard will “start contaminating” non-GM mustard fields with transgenes, including male sterility and herbicide tolerant traits. Alleging that the GoI is actively misleading the Supreme Court with untrue and incorrect statements on GM mustard, Kavitha Kuruganti of the Coalition for a GM-Free India said, “We can list at least five areas where Gov

'Unprecedented rise' of attacks on students of Delhi university by ABVP condemned

Counterview Desk  A statement, sent as an email alert by "concerned teachers and students of Delhi University", referring to a protest organised against the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad's (ABVP's), has alleged “brutal” attack on students and teachers demanding the release of civil rights leader Prof GN Saibaba and others from “unjust incarceration.” “We are seeing an unprecedented rise of attacks on the students of our university by the fascist ABVP goons. Almost every week we see our fellow students and activists getting attacked physically by the lackeys of this current Brahmanical Hindutva fascist regime”, the statement claimed. Text : A joint protest was organised by the students and teachers of Delhi University on 2nd of December against the brutal attack by ABVP goons. On 1st of December, activists of Bhagat Singh Chatra Ekta Manch (bsCEM), Lawyers Against Atrocities (LAA) and many other organisations as a part of Campaign Against State Repression (CASR),

Never-ending saga of sin tax: What if murder is taxed at Rs 1 crore, rape at Rs 5 crore?

By Moses Raj GS, Sangeetha Thomas*  What should have ended by June 30, 2022 as a 5 year experiment has resurfaced. The government has extended the levy of GST compensation cess by another 4 years till March 31, 2026. This cess, dubbed as the sin tax imposed on sin(ful) goods, is double the highest slab on indirect taxes. But only a few pay for it and the majority benefit, unendingly. The year 2017 is a landmark year for indirect taxes. With the grand idea of ‘One Nation, One Tax’ as a fiscal slogan subsuming all State based taxes such as octroi /entry tax, Value Added Tax (VAT), sales tax, taxes on lottery, betting and gambling, luxury tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, property tax, professional tax and central sales tax into a single framework of Goods and Services Tax (GST) changed the contours of revenue collection. Complicating it further, India, with each State having its own size and revenue problems, has the most complex and highly centralised indirect tax structure in the w

Muslims, Dalits off Bangladesh border 'don't have acess to' water, power, farmland

Counterview Desk  Kirity Roy, secretary, civil rights group Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), in a letter to the chairman, National Human Rights Commission, has revealed how, even after 75 years of Independence, Muslims and Dalits living next to the India-Bangladesh border do not have access to electricity, drinking water, even to their own land. Stating that the “horrible situation” has due to “illegal restriction on the agricultural activities” imposed by the Border Security Force (BSF), plunging “farmers and their families into deeper poverty”, the letter, referring to the plight of 1,200 people reside in the Changmari village, states, There are about 200 acres of cultivable lands out of 3,500 acres is situated beyond the border fence. “The ingress and egress of the farmers to their own agricultural land through the fencing gates are regulated by the BSF. The soil and climate of this region is very suitable for jute and maize cultivation”, it adds. Text: This letter is

Economist-editor's allegations on Narmada defamatory, baseless: Medha Patkar

Counterview Desk  In a reply directly addressed to well-known economist, journalist and columnist Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar’s two articles in the Times of India (republished here and here ), calling them defamatory and wondering whether they were borne out of “ignorance or a conspiracy through political alliance”, Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Pakar has said that the Narmada Sardar Saravar Project and the people's movement by adivasis, farmers, labourers, fish workers, potters and all the generations’ old communities from the river valley have suddenly come to be focused on, since the Gujarat elections are in the doorstep. She believes that while the “defamatory accusations with baseless conceptions such as ‘urban naxals’ are to be laughed at as the electoral strategic moves, one gets shocked to read the articles by a known old columnist like Swaminathan Ankalesaria Aiyar, published in a reputed daily like the Times of India." According to her, Aiyar’s two articl