Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns
A weapon meant to be deployed for ‘crowd control’ has been responsible for blinding, killing and traumatizing people in Kashmir.
Security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been using pump-action shotguns firing metal pellets in the Kashmir valley since at least 2010. These inherently inaccurate shotguns fire hundreds of metal pellets which spread over a wide area. Their use has blinded hundreds and killed at least 14 people since July 2016.
The effects of these weapons will be felt for years to come. Amnesty International India has documented the cases of 88 people whose eyesight was damaged some temporarily, some permanently–by metal pellets between 2014 and 2017. Their lives have changed entirely, and they are struggling to cope.
School-going boys and girls have lost vision in one or both eyes, and have difficulty reading, playing with their friends, or watching cartoons. College students have had to give up their dreams of pursuing higher education. Young men and primary breadwinners of families say that they cannot earn a living anymore, that they are now a liability for their families.
Several people have not regained their eyesight despite going through repeated surgeries, and are spending considerable amounts on medical treatment. Some still have pellets inside their eyes, because it is medically risky to remove them.
Many show symptoms of psychological trauma and all of them face everyday struggles: of dealing with the darkness they say has descended on their lives, of having to let go of simple pleasures and of preparing for difficult futures.
This is the human cost of the government’s heavy-handed crackdown in Kashmir.
Amnesty International India has launched a campaign urging the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Home Minister to immediately end the use of pellet-firing shotguns to police demonstrations; provide full reparation, including compensation and rehabilitation, to survivors; and initiate investigations into allegations of excessive use of force in cases of deaths or serious injuries by pellet-firing shotguns.
Amnesty International India’s Recommendations
– Immediately stop the use of pellet-firing shotguns to police demonstrations, and ensure that the use of other weapons is in line with international human rights standards on the use of force.
– Provide full reparation in line with international standards to those who have been injured by pellet-firing shotguns, and to the families of those killed. This must include adequate compensation and rehabilitation, including any medical and psychological care that may be needed.
– Initiate prompt, independent and impartial civilian criminal investigations into all incidents where the use of pellet-firing shotguns led to deaths or serious injuries to establish whether arbitrary or excessive force was used, and where sufficient evidence is found, prosecute those suspected of responsibility in civilian courts.
– Provide relevant training on crowd control measures and the use of force and firearms to security force personnel of the central and state governments, as laid out in the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.