Amid strong criticism of the use of pellet guns for mob control in Kashmir, Home Minister Rajnath Singh today announced that the government will look at other non-lethal alternatives as “we all feel sad” over the loss of lives and injuries in the valley.
Replying to a debate on the Kashmir unrest in Lok Sabha where many members expressed concern over the injuries caused by pellet guns, he said an expert committee will be set up to recommend alternatives to pellet guns and it will submit its report in two months.
Describing the youth of Kashmir as “patriots”, he said in “there is an attempt to misguide some” of them and a “mindset that stokes baseless anger against India”.
Singh said Pakistan played a “key role” in fuelling tension and that the situation was “normalising” gradually.
He also reached out to other political parties, saying the government alone cannot solve problems in Kashmir and all parties would have to work together.
“We all feel sad over the lives lost and those injured,” Singh said but added that “barbarism” can have no place in the society, citing incidents where some people had celebrated when some security personnel were killed.
Referring to concerns expressed by members over the use of pellet guns, the Home Minister said one person had died due to injuries caused by these weapons, while 53 suffered injuries in eyes.
“We will form a committee of experts. It will see to it what non-lethal alternatives we can bring in place of pellet guns. It will give report in two months,” he said.
He said these guns, categorised as non-lethal, had not been used in Kashmir for the first time as they had been used earlier in 2010 when six people had been killed by these and 98 had sustained eye injuries, with five suffering complete blindness.
Singh rejected criticism that security forces used pellet guns indiscriminately but at the same time said it cannot be denied that someone might have committed some mistakes.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has directed security forces to maintain “maximum restraint”.
“The youth of Kashmir are also patriots. There is an attempt to misguide some… There is a mindset that stokes baseless anger against India,” he said, adding that same “distorted mindset” can be seen in parts of Chhattisgarh, in a reference to Maoist violence there.
He described Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, whose killing in an encounter sparked the recent protests, as a “tech-savvy terrorist of new generation” who had exploited social media platforms to lure youths into picking up the gun.
Responding to opposition criticism that the Prime Minister was “beating drums” in Africa when Kashmir was burning, Singh said Modi was in touch with him during the tour also, enquiring about the situation and giving suggestions.
“I felt he (Modi) was in pain and worried. The first meeting he called after his return to India was to discuss Kashmir,” the Home Minister said.