Non lethal options to pellet guns approved in 2012 but file gathers dust

By: | Updated: August 30, 2016 1:03 PM

Acquisition of low-lethality riot-control equipment was tested by the J&K Police, central government forces and approved in 2012 according to a report.

But the acquisition process got stuck in bureaucratic red-tape, despite a public commitment made by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh.But the acquisition process got stuck in bureaucratic red-tape, despite a public commitment made by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Acquisition of low-lethality riot-control equipment was tested by the J&K Police, central government forces and approved in 2012 according to an Indian Express report. This could have prevented many casualties in the ongoing street violence in Jammu and Kashmir. But the acquisition process got stuck in bureaucratic red-tape, despite a public commitment made by the then prime minister Manmohan Singh.

On Monday, a Central government panel set up by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had recommended a list of less-lethal equipment that police can use as a first line of defence before firing No.9 lead pellets from 12 gauge pump-action shotguns, which became controversial after causing eye injuries to over 570 protesters, with over 20 permanently blinded in one eye or both. According to Indian Express, in 2012, documents show, the same capsaicin-derived pellets, as well as rubber balls that deliver baton-like blows at a distance, were tested in Srinagar at field trials witnessed by the then Kashmir IG S M Sahai, DIG Abdul Gani Mir, CRPF IG B N Ramesh and DIG Nalin Prabhat.

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Experts in the MHA panel told The Indian Express that unless a clear acquisition procedure is laid out this time, the new recommendations could end the same way. “There are a host of questions that have to be addressed,” said an official linked to the panel. “How much equipment is to be acquired, and how is to be deployed? Who is to pay for it? When will the precise tactics for using this suite of weapons be decided? Above all, how are police personnel going to be trained in its use?”

In the event, though, police in Kashmir received almost no training in aiming the weapon at varying ranges — a key skill in preventing pellets from hitting the chest and face of targets. There were also no stocks of alternate ammunition for use at different ranges or in varied conditions.
Police and CRPF in Kashmir, documents show, were meant to attend a seven-day course for all units deployed in the region for riot control, called the Joint Law and Order Training Module. The course included case studies, as well as hands-on instruction on the use of shotguns. The courses, however, ended in 2014, when floods and elections threw deployments into disarray.

At a January 18, 2016 meeting, Sahai, now an ADGP, and IGP Prabhat called for a restoration of the training schedule, pointing to intelligence assessments of civil disturbances, said police sources. No instructions were, however, issued. “The original idea was that the CRPF’s Rapid Action Force centre in Meerut would become a hub for training instructors,” said former CRPF DGP K Vijay Kumar, now a Union Home Ministry consultant. “I inaugurated it just before I retired, along with the then Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde.”

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