The Central Reserve Police Force, at the forefront of maintaining law and order situation in Jammu and Kashmir+ for last two weeks, on Monday expressed regret for the eye injuries caused to the youth due to the use of pellet guns in the valley.
The force, however, added that it would continue to use this weapon in extreme situations ‘carefully’, while hoping such situation doesn’t arise in future.
“We feel very sorry for them as youngsters have to bear injuries due to the firing of pellet guns. We ourselves are trying to use it in bare minimum so that there are fewer injuries. But we use them under the extreme situation when crowd control fails+ by other means,” CRPF DG K Durga Prasad said while addressing the force’s annual press conference in Delhi.
He also said that the ground troops are trained “not to be emotional”, while reacting very rationally to such a situation.
While there is nothing such as “non-lethal” weapon, the pellet guns are the least lethal available with them, he said adding that J&K is the only place where ‘stone pelting’ is done in such magnitude and the jawans have to use the pellet guns when the situation goes out of control.
The DG said instructions have been given to all force personnel that pellet guns, whenever used in Kashmir, should be fired below the knee level. “The injuries have taken place as the force had to resort to firing of pellet guns when the protesters come very close and there is a possibility of loss of lives either side,” he said.
A large number of youths have been injured in the last fortnight when CRPF personnel used pellet guns to control violent protesters in the wake of killing of Burhan Wani, a top militant of Hizbul Mujahideen.
CRPF received widespread criticism for the use of this category of non-lethal weapon, prompting home minister Rajnath Singh+ to announce in Parliament that a committee will be set up to review use of pellet guns and find an alternative to it.
“Everybody feel bad when youngsters get hit. But still, we will have to use it (pellet guns) in extreme situation as of now. We hope that any (extreme) situation does not arise (in future),” Prasad said.
Prasad said the CRPF is already experimenting with the other options under the less-lethal weapon category available globally, including the ones used by United States forces.
Explaining the stress under which the CRPF personnel were deployed in Kashmir Valley, he said as many as 114 companies (about 11,400 personnel), which were undergoing training elsewhere, had to be pulled out and deployed in the state to control the situation arising after Wani’s death.
“Our annual training has suffered as we are in continuous deployment. As of today, all our training companies are deployed in some theatre or the other,” he said.
He said 1,051 CRPF personnel were injured due to stone pelting and other forms of attacks by protesters in last two weeks.
Prasad said around 7,500 ‘full body protectors’ are being procured for use of troops deployed in crowd control duties.
He added that state government didn’t provide inputs that a tense situation would arise after Wani’s death while adding that situation was fast returning to normalcy even though “there are stray incidents happening here and there”.