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25 Sep 2017 17:23
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  •   Home > News > International

    Amnesty urges India to end 'indiscriminate' use of shotguns for crowd control

    India's Government bows to pressure and pledges to "avoid" the use of shotgun pellets to crack down on protesters after 15 people were killed and 400 blinded last year.

    In Kashmir's capital Srinagar, former carpet weaver Ghulam Mohammed sits with three of his daughters.

    They all used to study, he said, but shotgun pellets have left him blind in one eye and jobless, meaning he can no longer afford their schooling.

    "Now my girls have taken to embroidery work," he said.

    "They earn 100 rupees [$2] a day, that is how my family is surviving these days."

    Shotguns have been used in Kashmir since 2010, and Government forces fired them widely last year during months of anti-India protests, which followed Indian forces' killing of a popular militant leader.

    Mr Mohammed said he was blinded when he went to look for his son amid unrest last year.

    "As soon as I came out of the gate I saw people running toward safety, they were being chased by police and out of nowhere something hit my eye," he said.

    "I wasn't able to see anything for the first three months.

    "After two surgeries I was able to see from my right eye, but the left one is totally blind."

    In 2016, almost 400 people were injured and 15 killed by pellets.

    Amnesty International's director of law and policy in India, Shailesh Raj, said cases like Mr Mohammed's illustrated why the weapons should be banned.

    "These shotguns are inherently inaccurate and have indiscriminate effects," he told the ABC.

    "There is no way to properly ensure that they can be targeted at protesters who are violent, so as a result, bystanders tend to get hit as well."

    Facing intense criticism over the spiralling number of casualties last August, India's Government had vowed to introduce alternative weapons within days.

    Government forces have since experimented with capsicum-spray-type shells known as 'PAVA' (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) but this week, Home Minister Rajnath Singh acknowledged they had found the replacement ineffective.

    "People have complained to me that PAVA has not proven to be successful and effective," he said on Monday, referring to India's security forces.

    "Despite that, I told them we should avoid pellet guns."

    The weapons' use has dropped significantly so far this year, helped by relative calm in Kashmir — the restive northern province contested by India, Pakistan and separatists.

    Amnesty has also called for victims to receive compensation and for police to be held accountable.

    India's Government had not yet responded to Amnesty's calls, but in recent days indicated it wanted to revive talks on Kashmir's future.

    In Srinagar, Mr Mohammad said the pellets that hit him destroyed his ability to provide for his family.

    "For the surgery, my wife sold her jewellery for my treatment and other medical expenses," he said.

    "Life has been tough since the incident."

    © 2017 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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