Scores of youngsters left visually impaired in the unrest in the Kashmir Valley following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8 could have been saved, had the erstwhile government led by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh managed to push through a proposal to replace pellet guns that it had approved way back in 2012.
According to a report in The Indian Express, the J&K Police and Central government forces had tested and approved in 2012 the acquisition of low-lethality riot-control equipment. But their acquisition process was never completed.
The daily, which claimed to have accessed the documents, said that in 2010, the then PM Manmohan Singh had called for an alternative to less-lethal weapons after the unrest in Kashmir at that time.
But the committee headed by the then Home Secretary G K Pillai faced hurdle as the Bureau of Police Research and Development, which was tasked with shortlisting the less lethal equipment available globally, got involved in a dispute with the vendor chosen for the task.
The June 2010 Kashmir unrest saw a series of violent protests and riots in the Valley which started after the Indian Army claimed to have killed three ‘Pakistani infiltrators’ later revealed to be a case of a fake encounter. The violence had claimed the lives of more than 100 civilians.
It was after this, Singh had then called for ‘a high-power task force’ to come up with alternative to pellet guns.
In 2011, it was announced that the CRPF's Rapid Action Force was introducing less lethal long-range acoustic devices, capsicain ball rounds and grenades. These are some of the same equipments which the MHA panel has recommended now. But the procurement process for the less lethal gear ended without explanation in 2012.
Pellet guns were first introduced in 2010 and considered as non-lethal weapon. But Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his two-day visit to Kashmir on August 24-25, announced that an alternative to pellet guns will be given to security forces in the days to come.
Pellet gun injuries have left three dead close to 100 people visually impaired.
The MHA-appointed expert committee, which was to explore alternatives to pellet guns as non-lethal weapons to deal with protestors in the Kashmir Valley, submitted its report to the Centre yesterday.
An alternative that the committee has suggested is the use of chilli grenade shells. The committee explored the use of acoustics, but it was not found fit to be used in the Kashmir context.
The decision was taken after global criticism over the use of pellet guns against the Kashmiri protesters that have killed at least three and injured thousands of civilians.