Chilli shells, skunk grenades: 6 alternatives that could replace pellet guns in Kashmir
The use of pellet guns by security forces has caused considerable damage in Jammu and Kashmir during the current unrest. The deadly effects of this \'non-lethal weapon\' have resulted in serious injuries to many protestors: more than 50 people reported to have been operated in hospitals due to eye injuries, according to the government.
Unofficial estimates claim that that number is much higher.
Besides being a humanitarian disaster, it has also been a huge public relations disaster for the Indian government.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who was recently on his second visit to the Valley since the protests erupted, assured the state that an alternative to pellet guns will be provided soon even as he directed the central forces to exercise restraint.
Interestingly, security forces, including the CRPF, which has a 60,000 strong presence in the Valley, fear that during incidents of stone throwing targeting the forces, it may be very difficult to monitor each security personnel and ensure that there is no reaction.
According to one report, since 2010, 4,970 CRPF personnel have become the target of stone pelting mobs. This year itself the figure stands at 3,783 security personnel, as compared to 2,656 civilians who have been wounded. More than 60 civilians and two security personnel have been killed so far, in the Valley in around 870 incidents. Major parts of the Valley have been under a curfew for over 50 days now.
What is a pellet gun?
First used in 2010 in Kashmir, pellet guns are shotguns which use a cartridge filled with lead projectiles. The size of these pellets range from grade 6 to grade 12. Once the shot is fired, the gun throws out hundreds of these poisonous projectiles, which travel at high speed and can get penetrate the tissue. While grade 6 is considered to be the mostly deadly, grade 9 is used for crowd control.
The same size, interestingly, is used in bird shooting or clay pigeon shooting, according to some experts.
For effective crowd control, security personnel currently use a compact short barrel gun, which can spray pellets in a wider area. However, the distance from which it is fired determines the seriousness of the injury. Fired from close proximity, some pellets are bound to hit above the waist, even if the security forces target them otherwise.
Alternative to pellet guns
While controlling the stone-throwing mob has become a big challenge for security forces, several alternatives to pellet guns are in the works. Even in the past, security forces have tried other alternatives in Jammu and Kashmir.
Now with the criticism of pellet guns reaching a new high, the government is considering Chilli filled PAVA shells. Some of the other options under consideration include pepper balls, oleoresin capsicum grenades, CONDOR rubber pellets and FN303 guns.
Here's a look at the 6 alternatives:
PAVA or Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, also called Nonivamide, is an organic compound found in natural chilli pepper. It incapacitates and renders the target immobile for a few minutes. Experts have pointed out that while they can be used in combination with stun and tear shells, they are more effective then tear gas shells or pepper sprays. The government is considering ordering the Tear Smoke Unit of the BSF in Gwalior to mass produce these shells. These shells have been undergoing tests over the last year.
Tear gas shells have been widely used as a crowd-controlling measure the world over. In just Kashmir alone, during the current unrest, the security forces have used 7,000 rounds of the tear gas shells.
However, since it is one of the traditional and old ways of crowd management, the protestors have found a way to render them ineffective. For example, as security personnel point out, they come with their faces covered with masks, and use water to ensure that the effects of the tear gas are minimal. At times, the protestors even pick up unexploded tear gas shells and throw them back at the security personnel.
But they can also be deadly. Tufail Ahmed Mattoo, whose death triggered the protests in 2010, died after being hit by a tear gas shell on his head. Even during the current round of unrest, there have been reports of a protestor dying after being hit by a tear gas shell.
Pepper guns have been used previously in Kashmir to disperse crowds. Once fired, they cause a burning sensation and nausea. They've been used in several protests around the world, including in Ferguson in the US.
Used by the Israeli forces, Skunk, according to Mistral Security Inc., "is a water based, biodegradable, vile smelling liquid. The stench of Skunk immediately causes individuals and crowds to cease their activities in order to avoid the smell. It is an effective tool - that provides law enforcement the capability to rapidly and effectively disperse highly motivated individuals or to dissuade unruly crowds from potential violent escalations."
UN peacekeeping forces reportedly use these extensively. These rubber bullets are said to be effective on controlling small crowds.
This gun, said to be another non-lethal alternate, fires a spherical, fin-stabilised projectile. It claims to provide than a standard paintball round. "The forward half of the sphere is a non-toxic granulated bismuth shell designed to fragment on impact to prevent penetration damage. The rear half of the sphere contains one of several colour-coded liquid payloads which could include permanent paint, could be used to identify suspects later, or Oleorsin capsicum or pepper spray which could be used to control crowds.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu
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