Since 2016, mostly young people fell victim to pellet guns in Kashmir, says report by human rights association

Recording testimonies from 23 such victims, the APDP report shows how pellet injuries have “completely transformed the victims’ lives and destroyed their futures” <b></b>

Pellet gun injuries (NH Photo)
Pellet gun injuries (NH Photo)
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Majid Maqbool

Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), a human rights organization based in Srinagar, has released a report titled ‘My World is Dark’ on the victims of state violence and pellet-firing shotguns since the 2016 uprising in Kashmir. The report found that mostly young people were targeted with pellet guns.

“While this may be due to higher youth participation in the uprising and can be seen as an indicator of the youth’s sentiment towards the Indian state, it is shocking to see that even children as young as 13 have been hit by pellet victims,” the report states.

“This has continued to happen despite outrage by several Human Rights Organizations and has been highlighted by media platforms. In fact, 20 out of the 23 testimonies presented in this report are of pellet victims aged between 13-25,” the report notes.

Recording the testimonies from 23 victims of pellet gun injured during the 2016 ‘uprising’ following the killing of Burhan Wani by paramilitary forces, and collecting about 300 testimonies of pellet victims, the APDP report shows how pellet injuries have “completely transformed the victims’ lives and destroyed their futures, rendering people unemployed and impoverished, in a helpless state.”

“This is only a fraction of the total number of victims. When placed within the context of stepped-up state repression following popular protests in 2016, they portray a state of total war against a civilian population,” states the report prepared by APDP team members between July 2016 and 2018.

The report focuses on 2016 when large scale use of pellet shotguns and intentional blinding and injury of civilians came into the limelight. “There has been no let up in this form of state violence since then,” according to the report.

“In 2016, state violence in Kashmir took a heavy toll. Over 80 civilians were killed by security forces and more than 15,000 persons were injured. Among the injuries, 4,500 were due to pellet-firing shotguns,” the report states. “More than 352 civilians were partially or completely blinded by pellet-firing shotguns. The figures for pellet-injured victims continue to be revised upwards as many do not report their injuries.”

The testimonies put together in the report shows that the “physiological and psychological damage, the costs of treatment, consequent disability and loss of livelihoods pose a life-long economic and social burden on the survivors.”

The report also noted that a majority of the pellet victims belong to impoverished or economically marginalized families.

“Accessing healthcare and treatment becomes difficult in such cases, and almost impossible wherein the injured are required to travel outside Kashmir valley. For people living in the villages, even transport to the capital city, to go to specialty hospitals is difficult,” the report states, adding that the state does not provide any provisions for providing medical or financial support for pellet victims which adds to the woes of the victims.

Doctors’ testimonies

The report carried testimonies of some doctors who attended to the injured.

‘A doctor in Srinagar anonymously testified, “We’ve performed about 100 surgeries in the last three days. Most of them are going to lose eyesight in one eye. All we have been able to do is to avoid further damage. I’ve worked continuously for more than 70 hours since Saturday, mostly operating on young boys with severely damaged eyes”,’ the report states.

‘Dr. Adil Ashraf, registrar of medicine and the president of the SMHS Doctors’ Association says, “Not every pellet firing or beating seems provoked, it just cannot be. The age and nature of injury is on record.” Most of his patients were in the 17-25 age group, but he has also treated an 82-year-old woman who was brutally beaten all over and a three-year-old girl with pellets lodged all over her body. In another hospital, a 22-year-old ATM guard was found to have 362 pellets in his guts, which is only possible from being shot at close range. He was killed on the spot. “These people did not participate in stone pelting,” says Ashraf,’ it adds.

In use in Kashmir since 2010, the pellet guns fired cartridges contain 450-600 lead pellets with sharp edges. These cartridges burst when fired, spraying pellets.

“Since 2010, the military and paramilitary forces have used pellet guns on peaceful protestors as well as bystanders and even people inside their homes,” according to the report.

Calling for a complete ban on the use of pellet guns in Kashmir, APDP recommends “full reparation in line with international standards” for victims of pellet-firing shotguns, including the families of those killed in the report.

“This must include adequate compensation and rehabilitation, including any medical and psychological care that may be needed,” the report recommends.

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