Metal Pellets: “Non-Lethal” Weapon Which Maims & Kills in Kashmir

Know how pellet guns, a non-lethal weapon destroyed lives of people in Kashmir violence.

4 min read
Metal Pellets: “Non-Lethal” Weapon Which Maims & Kills in Kashmir

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What are Pellets?

Balls made of iron, pellets can be of varying weight and size. Pellets were one among three “non-lethal” weapons for crowd control introduced in Kashmir in the aftermath of the 2010 protests in which more the 120 people were killed. The other two were pepper sprays and taser guns.

Made of metal, they may or may not be covered by a 1 or 2 mm rubber coating to minimize impact. But this is not to say that a rubber covered pellet, or a rubber bullet as it is commonly referred to, can’t kill.

Eighty percent of the injured in Kashmir are under 25-years-old. (Photo: Pradeepika Saraswat)

Can Pellets Kill?

Yes. If shot from close range, aimed at any vital organ or the skull, rubber bullets can prove to be lethal. Metal pellets, if shot in an irresponsible manner, are equally, if not more lethal.

The ones that have been recovered from the injured in Kashmir in the last four days indicate that the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is using bare-metal pellets.

Also used for hunting, the metal pellets used by the Indian forces are shot from a 12 bore gun armed with a cartridge that can carry as many as 600 pellets. When fired, it sprays, not shoots pellets.

The iron balls are shot at a speed low enough for the person under attack to discern that he’s under threat, but the spray is wide enough to ensure the target is unable to escape.

The wards in SMHS are full of bullet and pellet gun related injuries. (Photo: Pradeepika Saraswat) 

Are Pellets an Effective Crowd Control Measure?

In Kashmir? Definitely not.

Five-year old Zohra was hit in the forehead, arms and legs at 10:45 pm Sunday night while she was getting ready for bed.

Nine-year-old Tamanna was sitting idle by the kitchen window when a pellet hit her eye. Her mother Shameena is convinced the cops deliberately targeted her home.

“They deliberately fired at our houses,” says Shameema, Tamanna’s mother, while trying to feed her daughter in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital. (Photo: Pradeepika Saraswat) 

A report by the Physicians for Human Rights raises doubts on the ability of Kinetic Impact Projectiles (KIPs) to be used in a manner that is simultaneously safe and effective. It states that KIPs “have the same ability to penetrate the skin as conventional live ammunition and can be just as lethal. When launched from afar, these weapons are inaccurate and strike vulnerable body parts, as well as cause unintended injuries to bystanders.”


Standard Operating Procedure for Firing Pellets

Taking into account their lethal potential, pellets should be fired from at least a distance of 500 feet. If shot from a closer range, the chances of causing permanent damage increase. Also, the pellet gun should be aimed to shoot below the waist.

In the four days of protests following Burhan Wani’s death, 92 people have undergone eye surgeries at Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital (SMHS). That’s just one of the many hospitals in the Valley. Overwhelmed with the number of injured people streaming through Emergency, the Centre has announced it’s sending a team of surgeons from Delhi and other parts of the country to assist in Kashmir.

(Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Kashmir Scars of Pellet Gun)

Where else in the World are Pellets Used for Crowd Control?

The Dallas police used rubber bullets to control mobs protesting the killing of an African-American by a cop in Falcon Heights which was live streamed on Facebook by his fiance.

Israeli soldiers are known to use rubber bullets at Palestinian rioters. Bolivian soldiers have used rubber bullets to target coca farmers. Canada, Egypt, South Africa, Israel, and Argentina are other countries that use pellets for crowd control.

Some countries like Ukraine, Russia, and Kazakhstan allow civilians to have rubber bullet guns for self-defence.

Violence started after Burhan Wani’s funeral on Saturday. (Photo: Reuters)

Worst Wave of Pellet Violence Since 2010

Providing data from RTI replies from major hospitals in the Valley, Mannan Bukhari in his book concludes that since 2010, pellet guns have claimed the lives of at least 10 people and injured more than 1500.

Five-year-old Zohra is the youngest victim of the pellet gun in Kashmir. (Photo Courtesy: Indian Express)

Mannan Bukhari, it must be noted, is the Legal Cell Head of Hurriyat (M). Quoting a report from the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), he notes that pellet guns led to the death of at least six people and injured 198 others in the four months between June and October 2010.

Of them, the youngest patient was a six-year-old boy and the oldest, a 54-year old who suffered pellet wounds in the face and abdomen.

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