With unrest continuing to rock the Kashmir Valley, the Union government has asked security forces deployed there to use plastic bullets in crowd control operations instead of pellet guns.
The ministry of home affairs has asked security forces to use plastic bullets against the stone-throwers in the Valley and pellet guns only as a last resort, agencies report. The much-criticised pellet guns will continue to be used as the last resort in the non-lethal category.
Senior home ministry officials said thousands of plastic bullets have already been produced and sent to the Kashmir Valley for use by the security forces. These bullets are said to be non-penetrative and can be fired from INSAS rifles.
The move comes after the Supreme Court had last month asked the Centre to consider effective means other than pellet guns to quell stone pelting mobs in the state.
On 14 December last year, the apex court had said pellet guns should not be used "indiscriminately" for controlling street protests in Jammu and Kashmir and be resorted to only after "proper application of mind" by the authorities.
A bench headed by the then Chief Justice T S Thakur had issued notices to the Centre and the Jammu and Kashmir government while seeking their replies on a plea alleging "excessive" use of pellet guns in the state.
The apex court had also sought the assistance of the attorney general on the issue and asked him to submit a copy of the report submitted by the expert committee constituted for exploring other alternatives to pellet guns.
The Opposition National Conference has been criticising the Mehbooba Mufti-led government over the handling of students' protests in the Valley.
Pellet guns fire cartridges consisting of multiple small metal balls. Their extensive use to quell unrest in the Valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on 8 July last year led to hundreds of cases of eye and facial injuries, often causing partial or total blindness. The Central Reserve Police Force and state police faced severe criticism and there were calls to ban pellet guns.
For the last eight months, security forces have been facing massive violent protests by locals and organised stone-throwers in Kashmir valley when they are engaged in gunfight with militants, who at times manage to escape with the help of the crowd.
So far, security forces were using PAVA shells and pellet guns, the last option in the non-lethal category before the use of assault rifles to control the mobs.
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, which causes sensory trouble to the target once fired. It leaves a dye mark on troublemakers for easy identification.