Amid strong criticism over use of pellet guns by paramilitary forces and state police in Kashmir, the Indian Army has recommended replacing the non-lethal weapon with sound cannons, pepper shotguns and chilli grenades.
In its recommendation to an expert committee appointed by the Centre to suggest alternatives to pellet guns, the Army said that alternative non-lethal weapons like pepper shots, chilli grenades -- that are less harmful -- are available to disperse crowds during demonstrations.
“The panel had sought our inputs and we have suggested sonic weapons, pepper ammo and chilli grenades. These weapons are less harmful. The government is looking at these options,” Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda said.
Chili grenades, developed by India’s military scientists, use one of the world's spiciest chili pepper species in weaponized form. The weapon emits a powerful skin and eye irritant as well as pungent smell that causes enemies to leave their cover or become physically overcome by the grenade's load.
Sonic cannons, used by law-enforcement agencies worldwide, emit ultra-high frequency blasts that trigger ear-splitting sound to disperse mobs. Pepper guns fire plastic shells packed with pepper that explode on contact causing severe eye, nose and throat irritation.
The use of pellet guns in the recent violence in Jammu and Kashmir has brought the weapon into focus. While police claim that it is a ‘non-lethal weapon’, doctors treating pellet victims say it maims a person forever.
Pellets are loaded with lead and once fired, cartridge bursts and immediately throws hundreds of pellet from a single point. They don’t follow a definite path. Pellets penetrate the skin’s soft tissues. Eyes are most vulnerable to damage. In the latest crackdown in Kashmir, pellet guns have resulted in extensive injuries to many.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had told the Parliament that one person had died due to injuries caused by these weapons, while 53 suffered injuries in eyes.
These guns, used by J&K Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), had not been used in Kashmir for the first time as they had been used earlier in 2010 when six people had been killed by these and 98 had sustained eye injuries, with five suffering complete blindness. The CRPF has 600 such guns. These guns are also used in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) areas but they are mostly used in the Kashmir.