New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) Amnesty International India on Tuesday launched a postcard campaign and online petition to ban use of pellet guns by security forces.
Under the campaign, postcards and a petition will be used to urge the Jammu and Kashmir government to ban pellet-firing shotguns, provide reparation to those affected and set up independent investigations into cases of deaths or serious injuries.
A statement by Amnesty International India said it will submit signed postcards and the petition to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
“Pellet-firing pump-action shotguns have been responsible for killing, blinding and injuring thousands of people in Kashmir. The campaign aims to bring people from across Jammu and Kashmir to write postcards to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti,” the statement said.
“It is shameful that the serious concerns raised repeatedly regarding the use of pellet-firing guns have failed to receive sufficient attention from the state government,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.
“The use of pellet shotguns is inherently inaccurate and indiscriminate. These so called ‘non-lethal’ weapons have killed at least 14 people since July 2016.
“Thousands more have suffered extensive and debilitating physical and psychological harm. It is unconscionable for authorities to continue using pellet-firing shotguns despite being aware of the damage they cause,” he said.
Zahoor Wani, a campaigner of Amnesty International India, said: “Through this campaign, we want to send a message to the state government that the people of Kashmir want an immediate end to the use of pellet-firing shotguns.
“The voices of the victims and those who stand in solidarity with them must be heard.”
The state government admitted recently in the legislative assembly that 6,221 persons received pellet shotgun injuries, including 782 eye injuries, between July 2016 and February 2017.
In September 2017, Amnesty International India released a report, “Losing Sight in Kashmir: The Impact of Pellet-Firing Shotguns”, which documented cases of 88 people whose eyesight was either temporarily or permanently damaged by metal pellets fired by security forces between 2014 and 2017.
Amnesty International India also obtained information which suggests that at least 16 Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police personnel suffered pellet injuries in 2016.
Security forces have used metal pellet-firing shotguns for crowd control in the Kashmir valley since at least 2010.
The statement added that the use of pellet shotguns in Kashmir violates international norms on the use of force.
The UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that law enforcement officials may use force “only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty”, the statement said.
The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms states that force should only be used when “unavoidable”, and law enforcement officials should “exercise restraint” in using force and “minimise damage and injury”, the statement added.