Pellet Guns and Children of Kashmir Valley

Armed conflicts are no longer fought on well-defined battlefields, but in and around communities. As a result, communities suffer massive material damage, such as losses of homes, schools, livelihoods, health facilities, and other infrastructure. War and violence not only disrupt social cohesion, but wreck the very foundation of communities. 
The burden of this social transformation fall disproportionately on children, who are defined under international law as people under 18 years of age and who comprise almost half the population in the war-torn countries. 
In many armed conflicts, particularly in the protracted ones that last a decade or more, children may grow up with violence as a constant part of their daily lives and have no reference point for conceptualizing peace. Violence affected Kashmir is not an exception.  The ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is amongst the oldest unresolved conflicts under United Nations. Children in Jammu and Kashmir are living in the most militarized zone of the world, with the presence of 7,00,000 troopers, which exposes them to the risk of all grave six violations against children as laid out in UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Victims caused by Pellet Guns in Kashmir
To maintain the law and order, the government used different methods of crowd control and one among them was the use of pellet guns. Though Police claim that it is a “non lethal weapon”, but doctors treating pellet victims say it maims a person forever. 
The pellet guns were first used in Kashmir in 2010 by Omar Abdullah government during the series of violent protests against the civilian killings. The term “pellet gun” is misleading when used to describe the shotguns used by Indian security forces in Kashmir. “Pellet gun” typically denotes the compressed air guns used in other parts of the world for recreational purposes. Unlike these pellet guns, which use compressed air to create force, the 12-gauge shotguns used by Indian security forces use explosive powders, which are more powerful and can be lethal. As the protesters are normally children and adults, so they are always vulnerable to pellet guns. 

Replying to a question in the Legislative Council, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said 1,084 pellet-gun injuries were reported in Baramulla district, followed by 1,041 in Pulwama, 1,031 in Kulgam, 888 in Kupwara, 873 in Anantnag, 808 in Shopian, 183 in Bandipora, 167 in Budgam, 110 in Srinagar and 36 in Ganderbal district. 
Insha, 16 years old, was hit by pellets on the evening of July 11, 2016, three days after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed when she opened a window to look outside her home in Sedow village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district. 
Ifrah, 17, whose house is on a main road in Pulwama's Rahmoo village, was shot by pellet guns when she left home to fetch her younger brother on 31 July, 2016. The teenager had already lost her father to cross-border firing in 2007 and has been living with her grandfather, Abdul Aziz. She lost complete vision in her left eye and can only partially see from the right. Shabroza, 17, was similarly hit by pellets on 31 October, 2016, and she lost vision in her left eye. 
There are innumerable cases of pellet victims. Though people of Kashmir are known for their good looks, but the Indian State has made them blind, just for asking their basic right. Right to Self-Determination, which was promised to people of Valley?
 According to records at the SMHS Hospital in Srinagar, at least 1,209 people with pellet injuries in one or both eyes have visited the facility for treatment since July 2016. Of them, 77 were completely blinded and 21 had lost vision in one eye entirely and mostly constitute the younger generation of Kashmir.

“The Indian government is violating international standards with its current response to protests in Kashmir. Specifically, the government is violating the U.N. Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials. The Basic Principles state that ‘Law enforcement officials… [must] apply nonviolent means before resorting to the use of force’. 

Additionally, provision five states, ‘whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence… (b) Minimise damage and injury… (c) Ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected person at the earliest moment…’

“Under Article 3 of the U.N. Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, ‘law enforcement officials may use force only when strictly necessary’. The Code continues, ‘in general, firearms should not be used except when a suspected offender offers armed resistance or otherwise jeopardises the lives of others’. Furthermore, the introduction to the Code states, ‘Every law enforcement agency should be representative of and responsive and accountable to the community as a whole.”

 Tajamul Maqbool

(The writer of this article is a Research Scholar under Centre for Studies in Society and Development in Central University of Gujarat, India. He can be contacted at tajbhat@gmail.com)