With pellet guns leaving hundreds of protesters in Jammu and Kashmir with severe eye injuries, a modified version of the weapon will now be used to ward off any protest ahead or during any anti-militancy operations.

CRPF Director General K Durga Prasad, who is retiring on Tuesday, said the paramilitary force had taken the decision of modifying the pellet guns to minimise injuries. The modified version of pellet guns will have a “deflector”, an attachment on the muzzle end to prevent the pellets from going up.

The force has tasked a special BSF workshop to deploy metal ‘deflectors’ on the muzzle of these guns so that shrapnels in the pellets do not hit above the abdomen region. CRPF troops deployed in Kashmir Valley have been asked to fire the pellets aiming at the feet of the protesters now as against laid down procedure of hitting the abdomen area.

Giving a tough message, he said the paramilitary force was now actively coordinating with Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) and army to undertake counter- militancy operations rather than being only a force rendering law-and-order duties.

“The situation is not as ‘naazuk’ (sensitive) as it was last year… The intensity with which it (stone pelting) happened is no longer there… The situation of stone pelting on security forces is not bad as earlier. The pellet guns are one of the many options that we will use when we operate to control protesters in the coming days. PAVA (packed with chilli) shells have a long shelf life and they are good in certain situations… But we have made it clear that the CRPF man on ground will use whatever the situation demands,” Prasad, who headed the force for a year, said.

“We have asked our men to fire at the feet now… By using deflector there is only a two per cent chance that the shot fired may hit above the point of aim as compared to the rate of 40 per cent earlier,” a CRPF officer said.

b’Protesters throwing stones on police and CRPF personnel during a clash after Friday prayers in Srinagar in January this year.| Source: PTIxc2xa0′

He added that by improvising the pellet guns, the injuries can be minimised but cannot be brought to a zero. The CRPF chief said the CRPF, with about 50 battalions in the Valley (about 50,000 personnel), is now increasingly training and operating with the SOG and this can be seen as a “great change” in the working of the force in the recent months in the state.

He said the CRPF has excellent coordination with the army and Kashmir Police and the initiative to increase its role in counter-militancy operations, what the force did in 1990s in Kashmir Valley, is to ensure that operations are launched or undertaken as soon as information comes in and without any delay of time.

The DG added the force has come across situations where locals pelted stones on security forces during operations, like stated by Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat sometime ago, but this was in situations where either some local boys had joined militant ranks and were encircled by security forces or the locals were under threat from militants to disrupt the forces in operations. 

b’Parents comfort their son whom they say was injured by pellets shot by security forces in Srinagar following weeks of violence in Kashmir, August 18, 2016. | Source: Reuters’

“These incidents are happening… We have been able to contain it. If militants have local support… That is to be ascertained,” he said. Prasad added the negative use of social media and media was influencing the youth of Kashmir to take up arms as he desired that it is the responsibility of these platform to ensure that the youth is not diverted to these things.

Official data said post the killing of terrorist Burhan Wani on July 8 last year, a total of 2,580 CRPF personnel, with 122 being hit grievously, were injured in various incidents of stone pelting and attacks, 142 incidents of stone pelting on its camps and 43 instances of petrol, acid and kerosene bombs thrown by stone-pelters on the force were recorded.

(Feature image source: PTI)