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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Pellet shellet na bhai na…..

Day after Yashwant Sinha’s meeting with Geelani, Centre asks forces in Kashmir to stop using pump action guns

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Oct 28: Within a day of the senior BJP leader and former union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s ‘ice-breaking meeting’ with the Hurriyat hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and other separatist leaders in Srinagar, Narendra Modi government in the Centre is understood to have directed Police and security forces to immediately stop using of the pump action gun, commonly known as pellet gun, in riot control regime in Kashmir valley.

On Friday, STATE TIMES learned from highly placed authoritative sources that the field officers of J&K Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have been directed to communicate verbally to all the units that they should no more use pellet guns to combat the crowds of stone pelters. The direction, sources, said, flew in to Srinagar, in the afternoon on Friday.

The ‘verbal order’ to the forces has raised speculations that the Kashmiri separatist leaders have put up a host of demands to the Centre through Sinha-led “Trach-3 team” and stopping use of pellet guns is seen to be the first concession. Activist Sushoba Bhave, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and journalist Bharat Bhushan were among Sinha’s team that managed to meet with the prominent separatist leaders, including Geelani but excluding JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik in Srinagar in the two-day visit earlier this year.

An eminent educationist and a journalist, both viewed to be intimately close to the ruling coalition, are said to have facilitated a series of meetings between Sinha’s team and the Kashmiri separatists. Publicly, both Sinha as well as BJP have claimed that the group’s visit was in no way promoted by the BJP Government or party at the Centre. In his statement, Geelani has said that the meeting happened “in cordial atmosphere”.

Previously, under Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s direction, Government of India and Government of Jammu and Kashmir officers had formed a committee and recommended PAVA shells as an alternative to pellet gun. However, it came under severe public criticism when a number of civilians and protesters suffered grave medical complications and at least one civilian, Junaid Ahmad Mir of Nasrullahpora Budgam, died due to excessive gas inhalation. CRPF too complained against its introduction as alternative to pellet gun, claiming that the unruly crowds would pick up the shells and throw them back on the Police and paramilitary force.

Finally, the authorities counselled the Police and CRPF that they should use pump action guns “only in extremely hostile conditions”.

Sources believed to be knowledgeable claimed that the separatist leaders had agreed to entertain Sinha and his team on the condition that they would force the Centre to concede some of their demands like freezing the pellet guns, revoking cases and releases a sizable number of the detainees before expecting next meeting with the Hurriyat in Srinagar.

On Friday evening CRPF officers were heard communicating to the field units on VHF radio sets to immediately stop using pump action guns in the riot control. The ‘verbal orders from the top’ were broadcast even as a constable of 117 battalion’s ‘D’ Company, Sobin S, was critically hit in his eye when a crowd of 200 to 250 people attacked the CRPF deployment at Arizal in Budgam district.

Around 8,000 civilians and protesters are claimed to have sustained injuries in the 112-day riots in Kashmir. Of them, around 2,000 are said to have sustained minor or major pellet injuries. At least seven of the 90 persons killed in the same riots have reportedly died due to pellet injuries. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is on record to have committed that the forces’ men responsible for killing ATM guard Riyaz Ahmad Shah would be got punished by her government.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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