The Pepper VOICES

I ntroduced at the peak of summer 2010 unrest, the Jammu and Kashmir government has time and again lauded itself for using a less lethal weapon called pepper gas in dealing with protesters in Kashmir. But with a number of civilian deaths attributed to the excessive use of pepper gas in residential areas, the debate against the use of this gas, both online and offline, has gained momentum.

The pepper gun is an air-gun developed by South Africa. It shoots pepper containing super irritant Capsaicin II (the burning component in chilies) in the form of concentrated dry powder.

We compiled some of the bitter experience of pepper gas shared by people on social networking in last few days.

Member of Parliament G N Ratanpuri while participating in the special debate in state legislature on the occasion of ‘World Women’s Day’ referred to the use of pepper spray by women for their own protection. He pointed out the irony that in Kashmir, pepper grenades were used against women.

“Reports of elderly asthma patients including women dying due to suffocation as a result use of these grenades have appeared in media,” said Ratanpuri.

Naqash Ali – Please educate me how come effect of pepper gas is at Sanat Nagar Bypass when there were no protests nearly. It is simply intolerable.

Abdul Rauf Trumboo – Humble request to Kashmir police come to the rescue and relief of your people. Stop use of chilly gas (pepper gas). Refuse to use it immediately. Remember this gas will not distinguish between your families or our family when it spreads in air. It will affect your family members as well as our family members. You are Kashmiris first, policemen later.

Mubeen Ahmed Shah – Some studies show that certain situations involving pepper spray can result in more severe effects. For example, if a person is allergic to any of the ingredients in the pepper spray, has asthma, or has a pre-existing heart condition, then the effects of pepper spray may be more severe and in some cases may lead to death. Part of the reason pepper spray is so controversial is that there have been a number of reported deaths where pepper spray was involved. Though the use of pepper spray has never been identified as the sole cause of death in these cases, it has been listed several times as a contributing factor.

Muhammad Salim Khan – Pepper gas can make eyes weep for few days, but it is among the worst weapons that will sow the seeds of contempt, hatred, disgust, anger for times to come…..and will prove counter-productive.

What is the fault of our young babies, sisters, mothers, elders at home who are the worst sufferers?

It is really painful to read a comment, “Every one coughing sneezing horrible pepper gas. Security agencies fire them mostly in the evening. Horrific conditions in Batamaloo. I cannot see my daughter coughing. She vomited everything she has taken since morning.”

To my doctor brothers, is there any antidote to pepper gas. Quick please.

Another medico, a leading dermatologist says, “Pepper gas is really suffocating – realizing it and suffering from it daily since the last three days now. And kids are having a real bad time – all three of them coughing continuously since the last more than an hour now – really painful to see and bear.

Is this thing used on any other population in the world in addition to poor Kashmiris?

Please stop using pepper guns. Do not torture our children with this gas.

Prof Geer M Ishaq – This pepper gas menace is purely chemical warfare. Our CM says he is helpless before trigger happy Army men and AFSPA. Is he such a dimwit as to be unable to stop punishing all the civilians, men and women, children and elderly alike by using this obnoxious pepper gas that sneaks into every nook and corner of a locality and leaves all and sundry gasping for breath. This collective punishment is an open war crime and people need to be made answerable for this menacing act. Innumerable civilians are either dying or suffering immensely due to this shameless use of force.

Stop suffocating civilian population with poisonous pepper gas immediately.

LEGALITY – Pepper spray is banned for use in war by Article I.5 of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which bans the use of all riot control agents in warfare, whether lethal or less-than-lethal.

Over 70 countries ban use of tear gas and pepper spray as part of mod controlling tactics.

REMEDIES/ HOW TO DEAL WITH IT

Avoid use of oils and lotions because they can trap the chemicals and thereby prolong exposure.

Minimizing skin exposure by covering up as much as possible. This can also protect you from the sun. Don’t forget a hat.

The simplest rule of thumb is to cover up as much skin with impermeable gear like rain gear. Cheap plastic rain jackets and hoods work fine. Most cloth will absorb the chemicals further exposing you even when you are out of the toxic cloud.

Gas masks provide the best facial protection, if properly fitted and sealed. Alternatively, goggles (with shatter-proof lenses), respirators, even a wet bandana over the nose and mouth will help. A bandana wet with vinegar (preferably apple cider because it is less irritating) counters the tear gas effects better than water.

Palestinians rub onions under their eyes for eye tolerance during exposure.

STAY CALM. Panicking increases the irritation. Breathe slowly and remember it is only temporary.

Blow your nose, rinse your mouth, cough and spit. Try not to swallow.

Remedy for the eyes, nose, and mouth: L.A.W. (liquid antacid and water) Milk is useful to lessen pain in the eyes.

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