SRINAGAR: The Amnesty International on Wednesday reiterated its call for a ban on pellet-firing shotguns used by Indian forces in the occupied Kashmir to quell civilian protests.
In a report, the rights group said it had interviewed 88 people whose eyesight had been damaged by the metal shot from the pump-action guns.
Two of the victims had been completely blinded.
“The injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is,” Akar Patel, executive director at Amnesty International India, said in a statement. “There is no proper way to use pellet-firing shotguns. It is irresponsible of the authorities to continue the use of the shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do.”
Government forces in Indian-held Kashmir have been using pellet guns since 2010 as a ‘non-lethal’ weapon following wide-scale civilian protests against Indian occupation.
After a spate of gruesome injuries last year that earned the title ‘epidemic of dead eyes’, Amnesty and other rights groups called for a complete ban on the use of the shotguns.
A single cartridge fired releases at least 500 high-speed metal pellets. These lodge in any available body part and are difficult to remove.
“In some cases, those injured by pellet-firing shotguns still have the metal pellets lodged in their skulls, near their eyes,” said Dr Zahoor Wani, the lead campaigner in the group.
In its report, Amnesty said it interviewed people aged from nine to 65.
Among them was nine-year-old Asif Ahmad Shiekh, whose eyes were damaged by the pellets.
“Watching cartoons on TV, playing with my friends on the street, reading books for hours – this is what I dream of now,” the report quoted him as saying.
Separately, a man was killed in an incident of cross-border firing across the Working Boundary on Wednesday, according to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
“Indian troops initiated unprovoked ceasefire violations using mortars and automatics and targeted the innocent civilian population along [the] Working Boundary in [the] Phuklian sector,” the ISPR said.
“Pakistan Rangers effectively responded and targeted Indian posts firing on [the] civilian population,” the statement added.
Zahoor, a resident of Dewra village, was killed in the cross-border exchange of fire, ISPR said.
The heavily militarised LoC and Working Boundary have witnessed sporadic skirmishes and artillery duels since the alleged Indian ‘surgical strike’ last September, in violation of the 2003 Ceasefire Agreement signed by both countries.
Earlier this month, a five-year-old girl was killed in Azad Jammu and Kashmir when an Indian soldier opened fire across the Line of Control.
The orphan was killed when a single bullet by an Indian soldier hit her as she stood in the courtyard of her house in Polas village of Abbaspur sector in the southern Poonch district.
Protests were held in the area against the apathy of the state and the government towards the plight of the people living along the LoC after the incident.
Published in Daily Times, September 14th 2017.