Stop using pellet-firing shotguns in Kashmir: HRW tells India

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Human Rights Watch has said that the Indian authorities should prohibit government forces in Jammu and Kashmir from using shotguns firing metal pellets to disperse crowds.

This comes after police and paramilitary forces fired shotguns as well as tear gas at a Shia Muslim procession in Srinagar on August 29, 2020, injuring dozens of people.

The forces opened fire after marchers in Muharram defied orders to disperse under a Covid-19 ban. This sparked violent protests in which some protesters threw stones, injuring 15 forces personnel, according to the police.

“Time and again, Indian law enforcement’s use of shotguns in Kashmir has resulted in shocking, grievous injuries of protesters and bystanders,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Indian authorities need to recognize that this weapon fired into crowds, even with violent demonstrators, will invariably cause indiscriminate and excessive injury in violation of international standards.”

Pellets fired from shotguns have caused thousands of injuries, including loss of eyesight, in the decade since Indian authorities first deployed them as an ostensibly “non-lethal” option for crowd control, to replace live ammunition. The move came after nearly 120 people were killed in Kashmir during weeks of violent protests in 2010.

The 2020 UN guidance on “less-lethal weapons” in law enforcement says, “Multiple projectiles fired at the same time are inaccurate and, in general, their use cannot comply with the principles of necessity and proportionality. Metal pellets, such as those fired from shotguns, should never be used.”

“Indian leaders who claim that their policies are improving the lives of Kashmiris cannot disregard that security forces are maiming, blinding, and killing people,” Mrs. Ganguly said. “The Indian government should cease the use of shotguns firing metal pellets and review its crowd control techniques to meet international standards.”

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