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No More Pellet Guns in Kashmir: Forces to Use Rubber Bullets, Chili Grenades

© AP Photo / Dar YasinIndian police men secure the area of gunbattle with suspected rebels in Hajin Village some 38 Kilometers (23.75 miles) northeast of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016
Indian police men secure the area of gunbattle with suspected rebels in Hajin Village some 38 Kilometers (23.75 miles) northeast of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016 - Sputnik International
In Kashmir valley, security forces have been using pellet-firing shotguns to disperse violent mob protests in the last few years. Pellet guns are considered non-lethal but hundreds of locals have allegedly turned blind due to their injuries.

New Delhi (Sputnik) — Anticipating massive protests in Kashmir, Indian security forces have ordered a huge amount of non-lethal ammunition that would help them disperse protesters without inflicting serious injuries. This has been done taking into account intelligence inputs warning the government of a large protest similar in scale to the 2016 unrest triggered by the killing of local militant Burhan Wani.

In the summer of 2016, hundreds of Kashmiris were reportedly blinded by pellets fired by security forces on protesters who turned violent.

Similar protests are being anticipated given the unrest among the public following the killing of 13 local terrorists by security forces on April 1 this year. More than 50 protesters have reportedly been injured so far.

"As per inputs, gatherings of people are being witnessed during the funeral of slain terrorists besides some incidents of stone pelting on security forces," Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, the minister of state for home affairs, recently informed the parliament.

Demonstrators hurl stones towards Indian policemen during a protest in Srinagar, against the recent killings in Kashmir region, September 25, 2016 - Sputnik International
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According to government sources, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) — tasked with the responsibility of curbing street protests in the Kashmir valley — have placed a bulk order for 300,000 rubber bullets, 200,000 tear gas shells and 100,000 chili grenades. The CRPF will also use dye-marker grenades to identify protesters who flee after being hit.

Government records suggest that the number of terrorist-related incidents in the Kashmir valley did not come down last winter as per expectations. Between October 2017 and March 2018, approximately 170 incidences of terrorist violence were recorded in the Kashmir valley, ringing alarm bells in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

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In the last fortnight, at least four terrorist-related incidents have been recorded on a daily basis, mostly in south Kashmir, in comparison to one per day till about a few months back. Locals have been protesting against security forces hunting for militants.

"Stone-pelting mobs had fought pitched battles with security forces during violent protests especially in the south and central Kashmir. The number of terrorism-related incidents is rising and so is the protest by locals. Therefore, we anticipate massive street violence in Kashmir valley this summer," a government official told Sputnik.

Indian police chase the demonstrators during a protest after Eid al-Fitr prayers, in Srinagar June, 26, 2017 - Sputnik International
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The other concern of the home ministry is the steady increase in the number of radicalized youths and local terrorists in the Kashmir valley. Security forces estimate that at least 250 terrorists are currently active in Kashmir — nearly 200 of them belonging to Lashkar-e-Taeba and Hizbul Mujahideen.

Apart from these ranked terrorists, authorities suspect that a huge number of youths concentrated in south Kashmir have been radicalized and it is feared that they may transform into armed terrorists by summer. Intelligence agencies have warned that prisons across the state of Jammu and Kashmir have also become hubs for radicalization activities.

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"The report indicated that Anti-National activities are being carried out by some prisoners lodged in various jails of Kashmir Valley including Central Jail, Srinagar. It further suggested shifting the involved prisoners to the jails outside the Kashmir Valley," Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, India's minister of state for home affairs, had informed the parliament last month.

To keep an eye on the radicalization of youths in the prison, fortnightly searches are being conducted in the central jail, Srinagar, by the anti-sabotage wing of the State Police, the CRPF and the prison staff.

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