Lethal Power


Imran Aslam Sheikh

Kashmir is a dispute since 1947; both India and Pakistan are signatories of the UN resolutions.Kashmirliterally highlights those broken promises which were made to its people.

Kashmiris as any other nation of the world didn’t accept the occupation of India since day one.From armed struggle to peaceful protests turning violent we’ve seen all.

The Kashmir struggle for its rights has shifted to its third generation which is way different than their predecessors.

The youth of Kashmir have given this struggle a “Palestine type” of  look. Already seen a lot of bloodshed, Kashmiris are mostly depressed with these situations.

This is one of the reasons we’ve one of the highest number of tobacco smokers here.

Protests have become a daily affair in Kashmir.Because everyday has something attached to it.

So to commemorate the past whenever Kashmiri youth start protesting, Indian forces cane charge them, tear gas shell them and sometimes don’t even shy away from using live bullets on them.

2010 is one example of such incidents where forces used an iron fist to suppress the protests in Kashmir and it appeared and reminded us of first Palestinian intifada.

Forces mainly use tear gas canisters on protesting youth which inturn results in stone pelting.

Anyways, they call these weapons as “non-lethal”.So let’s peek a little how non-lethal a tear gas canister is?And if it is a non-lethal weapon, why isn’t it used on protesters in Jammu?

Tear gas shell is formally called Lachrymatory agent or Lachrymator – chemical which causes severe eye pain, respiratory and skin irritation, pain,vomiting and even permanent blindness.

In the eye, it stimulates the nerves of Lacrimal Gland to produce tears.Use of Lachrymatory agents is prohibited under by various international treaties even in warfare.

It works by irritating mucous membranes in eyes,mouth and lungs and causes crying,sneezing,coughing, difficulty in breathing, pain in the eyes temporary or permanent blindness.

With CS gas symptoms of irritation may appear after 20 or 60 seconds of exposure.There can be considerable variation in tolerance and response according to National Research Council (US) Committee on Toxicology.Lachrymators are thought to act by attacking Sulfhydryl functional groups in enzymes.

One of most probable protein targets is TRPA1 ion channel that is expressed in sensory nerves of eyes,nose,mouth and lungs.There is even chance of death in use of tear gas shells;including the risk of being hit directly by a tear gas cartridge, causing severe burns, loss of eye sight, fatal concussion and even a fractured skull.Skin exposure to CS gases may cause serious chemical burns.

Keeping these factors in view, I don’t think any developed nation has the audacity to call such a thing as a non-lethal weapon. If various international treaties even forbade its use even in warfare how is its use on civilians justifiable?

International communities and various human rights organizations should step forward and press the Indian establishment to stop the use of such so called non-lethal weapons on civilians.

Calling a tear gas shell non-lethal only sounds good in books and this terminology seems offensive when you’ll come to see the victims of tear gas shells.

Its use should be stopped to prevent any further harm to the civilians on the streets of Kashmir.

Note: The author is a resident of Kishtwar. Follow [email protected]

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