Srinagar: The Ministry of Home Affairs had promised last year to restrict the use of pellet guns against civilian protesters and explore other options, but in January, it made fresh authorisation of 4,949 pump action guns for CRPF units deployed as Rapid Action Force, and Mahila Batallion in J&K, taking the total number of pump action guns to 5,589.
Around nine pump action guns will be available with every company (around 120 personnel). More than six lakh matching cartridges, commonly referred to as pellet-shots, have also been authorised, up from 1.25 lakh last year, DNA India reported.
Currently, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has 640 pump action guns, widely known as pellet guns, but in the coming months more than 4,000 will be procured. The idea is to adequately equip every unit of the paramilitary with the ‘low-intensity munition’ to deal with frenzied crowd in demonstrations and during counter-insurgency operations, DNA India reported.
“Earlier, pump action guns were available with only those units facing civilian protests and demonstrations like those in downtown Srinagar,’’ said a CRPF commander, adding that these protests have now spread across the Valley to even villages in south and north Kashmir. “It has become necessary that every company has adequate non-lethal weapons. Now, these guns will form part of every company,’’ he added.
Last summer, an estimated 600 civilians, including schoolchildren, were blinded after being hit by pellet shots in the eyes and above waist-level, in the mass protests triggered following the killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani. Another 8,000 were grievously injured with multiple pellets lodged in their vital body parts. This time round, metal deflectors will be used so that pellet shots are not dispersed above waist level.
“Pellet shots are used as a last resort. If verbal warnings, tear-gas shells don’t push back the crowd from the site of operations, then we use pump action guns,’’ said a senior CRPF officer from the operations division. PAVA (pelargonic acid vanillylamide) shells that were recommended as an alternative to pellets have been used at minimal as they were found to be ineffective to deter the crowd.