Alternative to pellet guns in few days: Rajnath in Kashmir

Singh, who is in restive Kashmir for the second time in a month as part of Centre’s outreach, also said it was willing to talk to anyone on the problems faced in Jammu and Kashmir within the ambit of ‘Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat’ (Kashmir’s pluralist ethos, humanity and democracy).

With Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti by his side, Singh told reporters on the second and final day of his visit to Kashmir that an all party delegation from Delhi will be going to the Valley and that a nodal officer is to be appointed in the Union Home Ministry to address any concerns of Kashmiris who are living in other parts of the country.

As the unrest in Kashmir entered the 48th day, Singh also declared that India’s future was linked with Kashmir’s future. “If future of Kashmir is not safe, India’s future cannot be safe as well,” he said.

On the contentious use of pellet guns as crowd control mechanism, the Home Minister said the report of the expert committee on this is expected within three to four days. Besides injuries, hundreds of people have been also left blinded in pellet firing.

“In the coming few days, we will give an alternative to the pellet guns. These guns were earlier considered non-lethal but some incidents have taken place ... we formed an expert committee a month back which was expected to give report in two months but it will be coming very soon,” he said.

He said the security forces exercised restraint while dealing with protesters in the Valley. More than 4,000 jawans have been injured while dealing with the situation, he added.

Singh said people of India were pained when anyone -- be it local youth or security jawans -- get killed. “Cannot we take Kashmir out of this situation? I appeal to everyone in Kashmir not to play with the future (generation) of the Valley,” he said.

As many as 66 persons, including two police personnel, have been killed and several thousands injured ever since the turmoil broke out after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.

“In 2010, it was said pellet gun is a non lethal weapon which can cause least damage but now we feel that there should be some alternate to this,” Singh said.

Replying to questions, he said the Centre wanted to bring an All Party Delegation to Kashmir in the coming days. “I have told (Chief Minister) Mehbooba Mufti about it and asked her to make arrangements so that the delegation can meet the people here.”

The Home Minister said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was concerned about the situation in Kashmir and had expressed his pain recently. “He is constantly in touch with me over the situation in Kashmir”. Singh said the youth of Kashmir should have books and pens in their hands, instead of stones. “Who is forcing them to take stones in their hands? Will they guarantee their future?”

Asserting that the government was concerned about the Kashmiri youth, he said, “we see future of Kashmiri youth like we see the future of youth elsewhere in India”.

Chilli-filled ‘PAVA shells’ seen as alternative?
An expert committee constituted by the Union Home Ministry to find alternatives to pellet guns for use in Kashmir has zeroed in potent and newly developed ‘PAVA shells’, a chilli-based less-lethal munition which temporarily incapacitates the target and renders them immobile for several minutes. 

The committee early this week held a full-fledged demonstration of the maiden shells at a test field in the national capital and gave its thumbs up for use by security forces in crowd control and protest-like situations in the Kashmir valley in place of the pellet guns which has led to wide-scale criticism as their usage led to cases of severe blindness and injuries to people. The ‘PAVA shells’, as per a blueprint prepared in this regard and accessed by a news agency, were under testing for over an year at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory in Lucknow and its full development has come right on time when it was most needed.

Sources privy to the working of the committee said the panel has favoured ‘PAVA shells’ as an alternative to pellet guns and has recommended that the Tear Smoke Unit (TSU) of the BSF in Gwalior should be tasked with the bulk production of the shells “immediately”, with the first lot not of less than 50,000 rounds. The name ‘PAVA’ stands for Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, also called Nonivamide, and is a organic compound found characteristically in natural chilli pepper. On the Scoville scale (the degree to measure the power of chilli), PAVA is categorised as “above peak” meaning it will severely irritate and paralyse humans, but in a temporary fashion. It is also used as a food additive to add pungency, flavouring and spicy effect to food. 

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