After 14 days of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have fired as many as 2,102 pellet cartridges in the valley to disperse protesters.
According to an Indian newspaper, over 50 per cent of the 317 people, who sustained pellet injuries, were hit in the eye.
The use of pellet guns by CRPF is second only to tear smoke shells which have been fired over 4,500 times. The CRPF has ten mandated non-lethal weapons for use in different situations.
Other non-lethal weapons used by CRPF in the valley include plastic pellet guns, rubber bullets, stun grenades, multi-button shells, blank rounds, pepper balls and capsicum grenades which have been used in the recent protests.
The pellet guns, CRPF sources said, continue to remain the most effective weapon against stone-pelters. The personnel maintain pellet guns are a wall between injury and certain death for protesters. As many as 1,099 CRPF men have been injured in stone-pelting incidents in two weeks.
“If there were no pellet guns, we would be using real guns as happened in 2010. There would be far more deaths and injuries. Given the kind of violent mobs security forces are facing in the valley, there is little option among the available weapons. And therefore, the pellet guns,” a senior CRPF officer said.
CRPF Director General K Durga Prasad while expressing concern over civilian injuries said, “They are the last resort for us. Only after all non-lethal options are exhausted, pellet guns are used. But we are pained to see the blinding and injuries to young people. We are looking at how we can minimise the damage.”
CRPF sources said that pellet guns are most effective because the cartridge contains hundreds of small pellets which spread out after being fired and cover a large part of the crowd. Plastic cartridges, on the other hand, fire just three plastic pellets while rubber bullets are for target firing.