Tactically, Lethal

Dr Qayum Hamid Changal

Dr-Qayum-Hamid-Changal-in-Maldaves The world is transforming much faster. Development and encouragement is breathing fresh everywhere—except in Kashmir. As the global market releases new trends of fashion and technology, authorities in Kashmir are adding up new modes of so-called ‘non-lethal weapons’ to quell the pro-freedom or anti-government protests.

They may be non-lethal in other parts of the world, but here it is fatal and mephitic. We have been the witness to one of the most brutal persecutions subjugated upon the protesters, and very often it results in death or grievous hurt. And this is Kashmir for you!

There are these much-hated pellet and pepper guns, and unending use of teargas canisters. But, recently we have had the addition of one more weapon of ruination, the ‘Flash Bang’ or ‘Stun Grenade’.

Aamir Ahmad Ahanger, a nine-year-old primary school student, went outside to buy milk. Suddenly security forces started firing on protestors in Old City. The Flash Bang was fired. It hit Aamir, who was by no means the part of protest. He suffered from grievous hurt, arm fractured and burnt, cornea of an eye suffered injury and face damaged badly.

The question arises, what is this Sten Grenade and how lethal is it?

It’s actually used to temporarily disorganize the senses of a human being. When fired, it produces a flashing light that almost blinds the person temporarily and the big bang sound of 170 decibels. These Flash Bang grenades on explosion can cause fire, and it’s smoke inhalation may lead to death. The exploding flash-bang does cause third degree burns too, and deadly injuries leaving a person hopeless with permanent disfigurements, even permanent deafness.

Many activists and lawyers worldwide have been questioning the use of these Flash Bang grenades as the non-lethal means. In November 2008, CNN News channel interviewed various victims who narrated the firsthand accounts of Sten Grenades. “I don’t sleep,” one victim said. “I have tremendous headaches. I have the doctors claim severe hearing loss, but for all practical purposes, I’m deaf in my left ear.”

Pepper-Gun---Free-KashmirEqually horrendous is the rampant usage of ‘pellet and pepper guns’ introduced on high scale in Kashmir especially after 2010 uprising.

Pepper gun is one of the two notorious means that is being employed against the protestors in Kashmir. It contains super irritant ‘Capsaicin’ in the form of concentrated dry powder. It is usually used from the distance of 50 meters that primarily blinds the target for 3 to 5 minutes.

It is a component of chilly powder, genus Capsicum that is highly irritant substance affecting one’s health in worst possible way. It is primarily the skin and eye irritant, lung irritant, and once consumed in larger quantity it may cause nausea, vomiting, burning, diarrhoea and moderate to severe abdominal pain. In does aggravate the symptoms if consumed by asthmatic and other respiratory disease patients, and the end result in such a case could be death. There are the confirmed research reports that it has a bad effect on the pregnant ladies, especially on the growth of their fetus.

On the other hand, the pellet gun injuries are surging day by day, thus crippling our newer generations lifelong. It causes eye injuries, soft tissue and blood vessel contusions, perforation of bowel and other organs, transaction of blood vessels and even embolization to distant organs. A few months ago, Hamid Nazir,15, lost his eyesight, and the greater calamity is: he wasn’t even the part of the protest. And as per the eyewitnesses and doctors he was shot from a very close range.

The most common site for these pellet injuries are the extremities, around 47%, followed by abdomen and chest.

“The police have a duty to protect lives and safety and prevent violent crime. However in carrying out this duty they must as far as possible use non-violent means,” notes Amnesty International report (May 2015).

Besides pepper and pellet, the tear gas shells are equally responsible for maiming, disrupting human life. The fallacy of non-lethality of tear gas shells has become obvious and there is no justification of their use.

We have had various deaths due to teargas canisters. Wamiq Farooq (14) was killed when a tear smoke shell hit him on head near Ghani Memorial Stadium, Rajouri Kadal on January 31, 2010. He was not a part of any protest, rather playing cricket with his friends. On June 11, 2010, as Tufail Ahmad Mattoo headed home from a tutoring center where he was studying for the medical entrance exam, a tear gas canister fired from close range bashed a hole in his skull. Unfortunately, he died on the spot. There have been a few deaths due to smoke inhalation as well.

The facts can’t be denied, nor can the government of Jammu and Kashmir push it’s head in the sand like an ostrich. Water is over the heads of common people of Kashmir. Every week new cases of these so-called ‘non-lethal’ weapons are adding up more grief and uncertainty.

Though, expectation to see things back in good shape is the least. All what is survived behind is a ray of hope, of ambition and aspiration. Perhaps Dr Anja Bienert of Amnesty International Netherlands’ Police and Human Rights Programme sums up the situation beautifully for us, “All too often, in many countries around the world, people are killed or seriously injured when police use force in violation of international standards or existing national laws.”

(The author is a doctor by profession. Views expressed are author’s own)

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