“But what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for light:
And with no language but a cry…..”
In the month of October 2018, BBC played a news item captioned ‘Lucky the Cat shot in a despicable pellet gun attack in Londonderry’. Twenty five pellets had been removed from the cat, which had been left with serious injuries.
The BBC I quote saying, “The police have asked anyone with information that can help us find the despicable excuse of a human being that caused this to come forward.” Un-quote
Yet, in an absolute paradox here in J&K just within a short span of a week this November, a 15 year old girl received bullets in her skull and an 18 month old playful innocent toddler received pellets in her eye.
The barrage of bullets, and the perforating pellets yet again formed the headline captions of all newspapers across the board. There has been a welter of emotions and sentiment within the conscientious society.
Whereas, in the techno-advanced nation of U.K, the use of pellets is considered violation of animal rights and is seen as despicable; and in contrast here in Kashmir valley such an indiscriminate use of the same is a daily game show.
Pellet guns or shot guns are supposedly non-lethal weapons, which use compressed air to fire round metallic projectiles. Modern high powered rifles can propel pellets above 330m/sec or 1100ft/sec which is approximately the speed of the sound.
Shot guns were initially meant for animals, but are increasingly used on human beings in this part of the world, when they have been banned in other countries. The pellet projectiles travelling at a speed of 150ft/sec can puncture and perforate the human skin which is obviously thinner than the animal hides.
If the speed of these projectiles is slightly greater the injury may escalate to fractured bones. Researchers have concluded that injury by pellets can happen faster than a car accident.
Pellets loaded with lead are sprayed from the shot gun and take different trajectories. Therefore, damage is far greater and devastating. The injuries can either be direct hits or hits from projectiles bouncing off the nearby surfaces like rocks, walls, trees, etc.
These shot guns are fired from a close range targeting the upper portion of the body, as various surveys suggest the head and the neck region, which causes bleeding from the face, nose and ears and multiple fractures of the maxilla/facial bones.
Medicos suggest that in the long run these injuries cause permanent medical issues/disabilities such as hearing impairment, vision loss, breathlessness due to the laryngeal trauma, change in voice, facial deformity, neuralgic pains and secondary infections; or even death.
The treachery of the speedy pellets pervades the psyche of the victim exposing him/her to chronic trauma. This trauma then relays into the macabre maladies of mental health causing sadness, irritability, depression, fatigue, aggressiveness, social withdrawal and violent behavior among the victim adolescents, who may as adults embrace negative behaviors. The families of such victims also suffer immeasurably.
Thus pellet guns belie the claim that these are non-lethal weapons, but have far reaching consequences on economy, health and well-being of the victims and the society to which they belong.
Pellets were introduced in the valley for the first time in 2010. But in the year 2016 there was a massive outcry against the use of pellet guns, due to heavy casualties that year; remembered as “the year of the epidemic of dead eyes”.
Even children of tender age 4-5 years were targeted, now HIBBA-the 18 month old toddler has become the youngest victim recipient. In the face of each child I see the face of my own daughter, and its so heart wrenching to gaze at the gauze covered toddler who can barely communicate her pain.
Despite of the huge resentment and protests against the use of the pellet guns, the Central Govt. refused to roll back and withdraw the use of pellet guns.
PDP became the collaborative cohort of the Union Government. But as on date has now surpassed the rapture of being in power. PDP also failed to prevail against the usage of the deadly weapon.
One of the erstwhile sitting minister’s of PDP Nayeem Akther had said, “We disapprove of it…..but we have to persist with this necessary evil till we find a non-lethal alternative.” Thereby, he covertly acknowledged his sublimity and that the pellet guns are not so non-lethal at all.
The Prime Minister of India too had referred to Kashmir on the 15th of August 2017 from the parapets of power. He had said, “Na goli se, Na gali se…. (The guns and abuses are not a solution to the Kashmir problem….)! Sir, the complex issue is yet to be addressed….
The rabble rousing speeches and the puissant policy of the ruling regime are divorced from the reality of the ground situation in the State.
Various writs have been filed. But thus far no orders banning the use of pellet guns have been issued by the Courts. Courts too have not come to the rescue of the common masses; even though the High Court of J&K granted some relief directing the government to grant compensation to the deceased persons and ensure adequate medical facilities and treatment to the injured pellet victims, if need be the same may be provided outside the State. However, in the light of the growing casualties these reliefs are temporary and insufficient.
There were suggestions that polymer, soft plastic or rubber pellets may be used instead of metallic balls; and deflectors would be used to minimize the injuries. However, the metal pellets are still in vogue.
The Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders adopted certain fundamentals on the use of Force & Firearms. It was welcomed by the General Assembly in 1990. It is the Code of Conduct for Law enforcement officials and provides guidelines for the states to adopt and implement.
The Code of Conduct states that force should be used when unavoidable, and enforcement officials should exercise maximum restraint in using force and thereby minimize damage and injury.
However, in Kashmir various International Human Rights Organizations have come out with damning reports on the use of pellet guns on the civilian populace. There is an intentional use of high velocity pellets, and these have harsh long term effects. The usage of pellets under the United Nation Convention against Torture amounts to torture.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in its Article 7 states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Pertinently, India has not only signed it but also ratified it.
Pellets destroy all chances of a dignified life for the victim. Fired upon the face pellets deprive the person of the vision partially or permanently. It is downgrading and cruel infringement of individual rights. The right to earn livelihood is also affected, as is the free movement in the society.
The sustained usage of pellets on the civilians is seemingly a part of the fatal ideology of the ruling regime, which does not seem to strive for a viable peace formulation.
The UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime & the Treatment of Offenders’ also lays down certain principles regarding the use of force and firearms by law enforcement agencies again are not followed in Kashmir.
The pellet guns are tools of brutal punishment to the protesting masses, even though ironically the Human Rights still apply.
Apart from the pellets, asphyxiating chemical gases such as pepper swirls, PAVA shells and tear gas are used to disperse the protesting civilians. These gases are extremely dangerous and hazardous to human health as they release environmental toxins that again have long term implications.
Mothers are running helter-skelter with infants in their arms for fresh air in this heaven on earth. Alas!
Childhood is a song; a gift to the infant song birds. Hibba is gift in Arabic. Our children are being gifted with pain and life-long darkness. They have no future and they have no song. Alas!
J&K State Human Rights Commission is the democratic institution of an otherwise undemocratic government, created in the year 1997 by virtue of J&K Protection of Human Rights Act 1997. It has an independent Police Investigation Wing, and is supposed to be an independent and autonomous body, which is the sentinel of Human Rights in the State.
The SHRC can inquire suo motto or on the petition by an aggrieved person into the violation of human rights or negligence in the prevention of such violation by a public servant. It can review the safeguards for the protection of human rights and recommend measures to the govt. for their effective implementation or remedies where it is required.
SHRC is thus only a recommendatory body, and the irony is that the State govt. is least inclined to implement those recommendations in their letter and spirit. Recently, ex-chief Justice, Bilal Nazki, who is the Chairman of SHRC also lamented that the institution has not come up to the expectations of the people and nor has it lived up to the spirit of its charter because of the state government’s apathy towards the institution.
Though created to be in essence a maverick institution in order to serve the needs of a democratic society, it has been reduced to an on-looker suggesting wrong has been done and needs to be rectified. SHRC lacks the necessary sanction against the officials of the government who fail to implement those recommendations. Laws and justice are bedrocks of a just vibrant society and the right to seek justice is non-negotiable.
The guarantee of human rights becomes irrelevant unless the institution intended for their safeguard is provided the necessary coercive powers to seek the implementation of its recommendations. In a conflict state striving for truth and justice however, remains elusive. Truth precipitates and Justice is badly reasoned!