India’s use of force in the occupied areas of Jammu and Kashmir has seen a rise since protests broke out after the death of a member of the Hizbul Mujahideen armed group on July 8. Over 78 civilians have lost their lives, while 2 security officials have also died. Moreover, as protestors have been seen throwing stones on government buildings and police stations, Indian forces have retaliated with live ammunition, tear gas, and pellets from pump action shotguns.
As reported, a man died after being hit by a pellet-firing shotgun in Anantnag district, while another died after being hit on the head by a tear gas shell on September 10. Executive Director at Amnesty International India, Aakar Patel has expressed deep sorrow over these incidents and use of pellet guns over peaceful protestors, “Pellet-firing shotguns have injured and blinded peaceful protestors and bystanders. Children have been hit by pellets from these shotguns while sitting inside their homes. These weapons are inherently indiscriminate and always carry the risk of causing serious injury to people who are not engaging in violence. There is simply no proper way to use these weapons, and they should be prohibited.”
The use of these weapons is a clear violation of the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms. As per the law firearms should never be used, “except in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury” and “only when less extreme means are insufficient.” Another 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 Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), approved the use of PAVA shells on the recommendation of a committees an alternate to the pellet-firing shotgun, which also serves as a form of chemical irritant weapon. Aakar Patel has asked the Indian government to inspect these new shells and any other weapons being used on protestors, while only being allowed after all personal have been given appropriate training on its safe use. The concentration of chemical should be inspected and approaved while being used at the minimum. However, as per Aakar, “the continued abusive use of pellet-firing shotguns, along with the deployment of the PAVA shells, is extremely worrying.”