Neutered AK-47s to be used against stone-throwers
Plastic bullet-firing AK-47 rifles will be the primary weapon for central and state police against riotous, stone-throwing mobs in Kashmir this year, with the Centre issuing a 'No Kills, No Scars' directive to police. This move is a response to politics over crowd control and counter-insurgency methodologies taking centrestage in the troubled state, with security forces gearing up for difficult summer ahead. This is a first in the almost 3-decade-old proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir, reflecting the changing dynamics of the Pakistan-directed separatism in the Kashmir Valley. The potent AK-47 being used for passive, non-lethal crowd control is also probably a first anywhere in the world, and a tribute to local ingenuity.
The plastic bullet-firing AK-47s will practically replace the pellet guns in the new Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) is issued to security forces. Pellet guns gained notoriety since their induction in 2010 to quell secessionist stone-throwing mobs. A severe political response to an unspecified number of blindings caused by the use of pellet guns has forced the Government to look for alternatives. Also, scars left on the faces of some protesters have been seen as telling symbols of excessive use of force by the State. But pellet guns are not being discarded. Their use has been restricted to situations which warrant escalation in force.
Issuance of 7.62 mm plastic ammunition follows its non-lethality being established in elaborate trials, some of which were conducted in Kashmir. "In these trials, plastic bullets developed by the DRDO's Chandigarh-based Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TRBL), when fired from a range of 25 metres, went about 2 cm deep in gelatin blocks simulating the human body. Reduction of propellant leaves an effectiveness range of 50 metres," highly-placed Government sources disclosed to this reporter. Hits will cause stinging pain - which the security forces will be a deterrence - but not wound.
The non-lethal ammunition can be fired from AK-47 rifles only in single shots and not in bursts, making these directed shots as against the dispersed pellet shots.. The use of the special ammunition will be restricted to specially trained teams within all units deployed in the Valley. Initial supplies will be arranged by the TBRL. Subsequent production will be taken up by the Ordnance Factory Board. "An initial order has been placed for the supply of about 7.62 mm 200,000 plastic bullets," Government sources disclosed to Millennium Post.
Training of central police in the use of plastic bullets, conforming to the new SOPs and refined tactics, has commenced.
"SOPs have now been circulated to commanders as a firm directive and a written order under the No Kills, No Scars Policy. Earlier SOPs were loose guidelines," Government sources said, explaining refinements in a passive policing approach. The firing-below-the-waist principle will hold for non-lethal ammunition as well.
The use of pellet guns higher up in the escalation ladder has been further defined in terms of caution. Muzzle attachments have been provided to limit the dispersal of pellets and ensure more directed firing. The least potent pellet ammunition is used, but even this 35 gram cartridge is stuffed with 616 pellets. The new SOPs provide for greater supervisory control in using live ammunition for crowd control as the very last resort.