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India to use chilli shells instead of pellets in Kashmir

September 5, 2016

India has said it will use chilli shells instead of shotgun pellets after dozens of protesters in Kashmir went blind. Kashmir is experiencing the worst unrest since 2010.

Indien Pellet Opfer Insha Malik
Image: Getty Images/AFP/T. Mustafa

Indian security forces will use chilli-based shells instead of shotgun pellets to control protesters in the restive Kashmir region, the interior minister said on Monday, after thousands of people were wounded and several went blind by the use of pellet guns.

Since early July, nearly 4,000 people have been injured and one killed by pellet guns as India grapples with the biggest protests in Kashmir since 2010. More than 100 people have gone full or partially blind after being hit in the eye with the pellets, while hospitals said they had treated more around 600 people for eye injuries.

Interior Minister Rajnath Singh said an expert committee had recommended the use of PAVA shells, which contains a chilli extract used in pepper spray.

"The expert panel suggested the use of PAVA shells, and I understand that no one can die from it," Singh told reporters in Srinagar. "Since yesterday, 1,000 shells have already reached Kashmir," he added.

Pellets are intended to minimize casualties, but security forces say they are sometimes forced to fire on crowds at close range.

Indien Proteste in Srinagar
Thousands of stone-throwing youth have taken to the streets every day since early July.Image: Reuters/D. Ismail

Protests erupted in Kashmir after security forces killed a separatist leader on July 8. The protests have left 73 people dead, 71 of them civilians.

Authorities in late August lifted a curfew imposed in most parts of Kashmir following a 52-day security lockdown, but schools, shops and many banks remain closed.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars over the predominantly Muslim region. India accuses Pakistan of arming rebels fighting for independence or union with Pakistan.

More than 50,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

cw/jil (AFP, Reuters)