Srinagar: In order to reduce collateral damage during violent protests, security forces in Indian-administered-Kashmir would now include plastic pellets and shells giving off pungent smell to control the stone-pelting mobs.
The pellet guns, however, will continue to be used as the last resort in the non-lethal category. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court asking the Centre and Jammu and Kashmir governments to consider alternatives to pellet guns in the valley, discussions have been held with troops on the ground engaged in tackling law and order problems, especially the stone-pelting locals, during anti-insurgency operations.
Maintaining that pellet guns will remain the last non-lethal weapon before firing is ordered, official sources said CS shells could be a potential alternative as these evaporate on explosion. Scientifically known as chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, CS shells, upon exploding, cause tears and burning sensation in eyes, irritation in nose, mouth and throat, leading to coughing and difficulty in breathing.
The sources said one of the suggestions during the discussions was to strengthen the chemical mixture in the CS shell, so that it acts as an effective deterrent. Security forces often face stiff resistance from the locals while they are engaged in gunfight with militants, who at times manage to escape with their help.
The SC observations last week came in response to J&K Bar Association's petition seeking a complete ban on pellet guns, which have caused large-scale injuries, even death, during the prolonged protests following the encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani last year.
Security forces have introduced plastic pellets and PAVA shells to control the mobs. These would be used only if tear gas and the CS shells fail to bring them under control. PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) is a chilli-based ammunition, which is less lethal and immobilises the target temporarily.
Other less-lethal weapons used include 'dye marker grenade with irritant' which causes sensory trouble to the target once fired. It leaves a dye mark on the troublemakers for easy identification. An new entrant to the arsenal of non-lethal weapons is a grenade packed with scientifically prepared spicy jelly, which on exploding, causes irritation in the eyes. Oloeoresin, a semi-solid extract in a solution, mixed with spicy gel, could be put in the grenade casings to tackle rioting mobs, sources said.
Calling the damage caused by pellet guns an issue of "life and death", the Supreme Court had last week told the government to come up with suggestions regarding effective alternatives. Last week, three civilians were killed during protests in Chadoora when an unruly mob made attempts to obstruct an ongoing anti-militancy operation in the area. Army chief General Bipin Rawat had earlier warned of tough action against protesters who hurled stones at security personnel engaged in anti-militancy operations or targeted their families.