Six Things You Should Know About Pellet Shotguns In Kashmir
1 February 2018 2:00 pm
1.What are “pellet guns” and why are they used?
“Pellet guns” are pump-action shotguns which fire a cluster of small, round, metal pellets with high velocity over a wide area.
A pellet shotgun cartridge can contain up to 500 pellets. Once shot, the cartridge explodes and the pellets disperse in all directions, harming everyone in their path. There is no way to control their trajectory or direction. Pellet shotguns by their very nature are inherently inaccurate, and the effects of their use are indiscriminate.
Security forces in Jammu and Kashmir have been using pellet shotguns to police protests in the Kashmir valley since at least 2010.
2. How many people have been killed and injured by the use of pellet shotguns in Kashmir?
Recently, the Jammu and Kashmir state government admitted in the state legislative assembly that 6,221 persons received pellet gun injuries, including 782 eye injuries, between July 2016 and February 2017. The actual figures relating to the devastation caused by these weapons are likely to be even higher.
In September 2017, we released a briefing, “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns”, which documented cases of 88 people whose eyesight was either temporarily or permanently damaged by metal pellets between 2014 and 2017. At least 14 people have died as a result of pellet injuries since July 2016. We also obtained information through RTI applications which suggests that at least 16 J&K Armed Police personnel suffered pellet injuries in 2016.
3. Why should they be banned?
Due to their inherently inaccurate nature, pellet shotguns have been responsible for blinding, killing and traumatizing thousands of people in Kashmir. Our briefing sought to shed light on the immeasurable harm that people in Kashmir have suffered because of the use of pellet shotguns. Besides the serious physical injuries, many show symptoms of psychological trauma, and all of them face every day 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.
The use of pellet shotguns in Kashmir violates international standards on the use of force. The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that law enforcement officials may use force “only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty”. The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms state that force should only be used when unavoidable, and law enforcement officials should “exercise restraint” in using force and “minimize damage and injury”. The use of pellet shotguns does not comply with these standards, as the weapons are inherently inaccurate and carry the risk of causing serious injury, including to bystanders and others who are not targeted.
4. If not pellet shotguns, then what?
Security forces have a duty to maintain public order, but they also have an obligation to do so in a manner that complies with international standards on the use of force. Violent acts by protesters, including stone throwing, should be addressed in a manner that allows for better targeting and minimises the harm caused.
Police personnel in other Indian states use a range of means– which are not inherently abusive – to deal with violent protests. Any alternative chosen must comply with international standards on the use of force. Both central and state government security force personnel must be trained on the international standards relating to the use of force.
5. What is Amnesty International India’s #BanPelletGuns campaign?
On 16 January, we launched a postcard campaign and online petition to #BanPelletGuns.
The postcards and petition urge the Jammu and Kashmir state government to ban pellet-firing shotguns, provide reparation to those affected, and set up independent investigations into cases of deaths or serious injuries. We will submit the signed postcards and petition to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
This campaign aims to bring people from across India together to send a message to the J&K state government that people want an immediate end to the use of pellet shotguns.
6. Why is the campaign addressed to Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, instead of the central government?
The state government has allowed the continued use of pellet shotguns in Kashmir despite being aware of the extensive and debilitating harm these weapons cause. Nowhere else in India are these weapons officially used.
While Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has raised questions about the use of pellet shotguns, and the state has provided compensation to some pellet shotgun victims and their families, these measures have been sporadic and inadequate.
Our postcard campaign and petition are addressed to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti as she is the elected head of the state government of Jammu and Kashmir, which has a duty to uphold the human rights of everyone in the state. Pellet-firing shotguns are used both by the J&K police and the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force. The J&K state government is also the relevant authority to provide reparation and ensure investigations into deaths and serious injuries caused by these weapons.