(New York) – The Indian authorities should prohibit security forces in Jammu and Kashmir from using shotguns firing metal pellets to disperse crowds, Human Rights Watch said today. Indian police and paramilitary forces fired shotguns as well as tear gas at a Shia Muslim procession in Srinagar on August 29, 2020, injuring dozens of people.
The forces opened fire after marchers in Muharram defied orders to disperse under a Covid-19 ban. This sparked violent protests in which some protesters threw stones, injuring 15 security personnel, according to the police.
“Time and again, Indian law enforcement’s use of shotguns in Kashmir has resulted in shocking, grievous injuries of protesters and bystanders,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Indian authorities need to recognize that this weapon fired into crowds, even with violent demonstrators, will invariably cause indiscriminate and excessive injury in violation of international standards.”
Pellets fired from shotguns have caused thousands of injuries, including loss of eyesight, in the decade since Indian authorities first deployed them as an ostensibly “non-lethal” option for crowd control, to replace live ammunition. The move came after nearly 120 people were killed in Kashmir during weeks of violent protests in 2010.