Managing Unrest

One of the vital contributions of the controversial governor of J&K Lt Gen S K Sinha to the overall situation in Kashmir was the creation of an issue that helped Kashmir society start a transition from violence to comparatively more peaceful means of communication. That was perhaps the first year in around more than two decades when all of a sudden the ubiquitous gun-yielding security men started feeling the requirement of items that do not fire bullets.

The 2008 land row that cost Congress its government in Srinagar marked the beginning of a thought that lethal weaponry needs to change because ground is changing. Then, the police was caught in such a situation that it lacked even bamboo sticks and the routine shields and riot gears. It was an emergency and the state police managed to fly a plane-load of riot gear from some northeastern state.

But having a system and using it are different things. While the requirement of using them was there, they were least used even in 2009 when the Shopian crisis erupted. Later in 2010, when larger crisis started with the killing of a young school boy – whose case is perhaps one of the few murders still not solved, body bags went home almost everywhere in city and the peripheral towns – more than 120.

It was in its aftermath that another cycle of thought process was generated and executed. Though this time the focus continued to be on the non-lethality of the gears, the policy makers still wanted something more potent that can help manage things better. A whole lot of new range was considered; electric guns, shockers, tazer guns and many other things. Most of the police officers were given tazer guns to see its efficacy. It was finally the pellet gun that was approved. Once in use, it started proving dangerous as there were many killings in pellet fires as well. Besides, there were many others who survived with injured eyes.

In the second phase, the police wanted something that is more potent than the tear smoke. It paved way to using improved tear smoke shells and pepper grenades. It is the pepper grenade that is in news these days as women, elderly and children are facing the music.

While the systems will continue to debate about the lethality or non-lethality of weapons, it finally boils down to how it is being used. Any non-lethal weapon used from an unsafe distance will be lethal. So it essentially relies on the human resource.

For the last few days, every locality is reporting an indiscriminate use or misuse of force by the security agencies. Localities are being raided and the houses are being damaged by the paramilitary men across Kashmir. This has created a situation that Divisional Commissioner, the top most civil administration officer in Srinagar, had to pass express directions to the police that it must exercise control over the paramilitary that has been invited to assist and not to lead the state subject. It needs an immediate attention.

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