Books

Kashmir’s Scars of Pellet Guns

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Book: Kashmir Scars of Pellet Guns: The Brutal Face of Suppression

Author:      Mannan Bukhari

Publisher:  Partridge Publishing India

August 6, 2015                       

ISBN-10:   1482850079          

ISBN-13:   978-1-4828-5007-9                               

Pages:         298

 

Saba Shah

 

Kashmir Scars Of Pellet Gun, authored and compiled by a prominent Kashmir-based human rights defender, Mannan Bukhari, is the first of its kind to be written on the subject, and contains the details of horror caused by the use of pellet gun in Indian Kashmir Valley.

Reliving his experiences and endless dialogue with the people of his land, Bukhari begins form reminiscences of 1990 when the armed struggle against India was on a surge. He has also highlighted that 70,000 people have disappeared, and thousands have been raped. Mannan has also presented a fleeting look at the 2010 civil unrest and the unjustified killings and arrests.

Pellet guns were introduced in Kashmir as non-lethal alternative to quell the pro freedom demonstrations after more than 130 demonstrators were killed by the police and paramilitary in firing during 2008, 2009 and  2010 unrest. Since its introduction in Kashmir in 2010, the deadly pump action shotgun or pellet gun is a preferred weapon used on civilians, including protesters and bystanders alike.

The book is divided into eight chapters, which include information acquired through RTI, medical practitioners’ experiences and observations on pellet-caused injuries and fatalities, stories of some of the survivors, accounts of family members, thereby unveiling the lethality of so-called non-lethal weapons. Highlighting the brutal face of suppression this 283-page book makes it clear that pellets have caused unprecedented horror to survivors. There are cases of lost vision, crippling lung and injuries and disfiguring facial wounds. The age group 13 -30 has been the worst hit.

The beauty of the book, published by Partridge India, A Penguin Random House company, has cover page photo of an X-ray of a human skull damaged with pellets, wounding the eyes, bones and brains, which clearly indicates the lethality of the weapon that government is claiming to be non-lethal.

According to the book,  doctors treating the pellet victims in Srinagar, find pellets deadlier than bullets. Not only the treatment is often more complicated than that for a bullet injury but the damage caused by the pellets was devastating. Surgeons say a bullet hits one or two organs, but a pellet damages multiple organs, with multiple perforations.

The book documents a study conducted by SK Institute of Medical Science, which showed that from June 2010 to September 2010 alone, pellet injuries caused death of six persons, severely injured 198 persons and five persons lost their eyesight following pellet injuries. 

Another study titled “Profile and outcome of violence-related injuries of patients during civilian unrest in a conflict zone” documented in the book has noted that attending doctors struggled to save patients who suffered pellet injuries. 

The book also highlights the pervasive fear of state machinery, especially intelligence agencies, as a result of which many families prefer to get their victims treated at private clinics as in government hospitals they fear being rounded up by intelligence agents. They also are afraid that police would register cases against pellet victims for sedition and waging war against the state.

A large number of pellet-injury victims have not even been part of protests. Their statements reveal that they were hit in a targeted manner. As revealed in the book the families of the pellet-wounded youth face shortage of financial resources affecting their treatment.

It is  wrenching to read how so many youth left their homes, but never came back. Often their bullet-ridden dead bodies were brought home.

The verdict of the state Human Rights Commission, obtained through RTI Act by the author, substantiates the author’s stand. It says, “After going through the report of the police chief of the state there remains nothing substantial to be adjudicated in the matter. The DGP J&K has frankly admitted in his report that CRPF personnel who were boarded in a banker vehicle fired indiscriminately on civilians, as a result of which three persons sustained injuries out of whom one Mudasir Nazir Hajam, succumbed to his injuries and the present subject has sustained 30 per cent visual impairment permanently. From the report, it is clear that the deceased and the injured were completely innocent civilians, but for the misadventure and unbridled powers exercised by CRPF personnel a precious life has been lost and the present subject has sustained permanent disability. The incident is an example which shows that many innocent civilians have unnecessarily lost their lives only because the security forces had run amok and were not subjected to any command or control.”

The author presents the haunted pain of the victims who were injured in this chaos and could not even receive proper medical attention. Their parents did not have money to fulfill the last wish of their dying children, of eating an ice-cream.

The author has also highlighted the condition of pellet sufferers who have completely lost vision.

Two defining aspects of the book are that it has focused on statistics and has also featured the prominent works by other writers. The book from page no 89 to 168 reproduces articles from renowned journalists who have severely criticised the use of pellet gun on innocent civilians. By documenting these articles which have appeared in different publications, including New York Times, Mannan claims that acts of repression and brutality occurred before the eyes of the world, and yet nothing happened.

The author has presented R.T.I reports from different hospitals of the valley. From these statistics we know that from minor public healthcare facilities to major hospitals of the valley have received scores of patients suffering from pellet injuries since its use from 2010 by government forces. It also offers medical research articles prepared by renowned doctors of the valley.

Gautam  Navalakha in his foreword has depicted it as a book which shows with records and documents what befell people at the hands of Indian forces, when the military forces used the “non-lethal”. Pellet guns. And in so doing it further lends credence to the body of literature about the hideous aspect of “war to win hearts”, where not just hearts but minds are target of attack.”

According to Navalakha, a prominent human rights activist, “the significance of this book lies in collection and collating of data acquired through RTI as well as based on medical practitioners’ own experience and observations on pellet-caused injuries and fatalities. These are stories of some of the survivors, accounts of family members and others that recalls real life happenings as they unfold and their aftermath. It is the everydayness of this happening, the real events and those involved. It is told simply and lucidly. But in the end it is much more than that.”

The author has also documented statistics and data to support the argument that the use of pellet gun is a crime against humanity. A detailed account of the havoc created by the deadly pellet gun in Kashmir valley is shown in readable and entertaining style.

The reviewer is a social activist and a freelancer.

She may be emailed at:  shahsaba937@gmail.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 January 2016 on page no. 21

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