NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir has been reeling from one crisis to another---political and humanitarian---ever since the PDP-BJP coalition took over under Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. Hamid Ahmad Bhat, just 16 years, in lying with scores of pellets searing his face and eyes after the police and paramilitary forces chased protesters firing at them indiscriminately.

The forces that had killed 126 youth in 2010 with bullets, by firing at them without observing the basic rules of ‘gunplay’ as it were, were issued pellet guns for use against protesters. The police and the paramilitary had come under severe criticism for shooting to kill, in that instead of firing below the waist invariably fired below, killing the youth on the streets. Instead of making the rules mandatory, the governments then decided to issue pellet guns to the forces that were used indiscriminately, resulting in severe injuries to many protesters.

So much so that then opposition leader Mehbooba Mufti led a walkout by the Peoples Democratic Party on the issue in the state Assembly. And said that these guns had caused loss and impairment of vision in the Kashmir Valley.“These poor families have to take their children, who have become victims of pellet guns and pepper guns used by the security forces, to Amritsar and other places outside the state for treatment,” she said.

PDP then had reeled out the names of at least four children Tariq, Ghulam Mohiuddin, Mohammad Ashraf and Umer Nabi who had lost their eyesight because of the indiscriminate use of these pellet guns by the forces. It had claimed then that hundreds of young people had sustained injuries with these. Doctors have been quoted in the newspapers, however, as saying that over 50 young people have lost their eyesight because of pellet injuries riddling their faces.

The PDP has been replaced by the National Conference now, in that it has criticised the use of the guns that were introduced in the state under its government. Clearly both the NC and now the PDP are compromised with the national parties, the Congress and the BJP in what is developing into a major humanitarian crisis in the Valley.

Former Director General of the Border Security Force EN Rammohan expressed shock over the incident. “I do not know how these guns that can do infinite damage have been introduced in the services. I am shocked, I have not seen this in my 35 years of service,” he told The Citizen. When asked if the introduction of these supposedly non lethal weapons to replace the lethal guns was intended to cut down on the casualties, Rammohan said that in the first place the police was not allowed to fire to kill at protesters. He said that firing was allowed only under a magistrates order when mobs turned violent, and even then only after initial efforts such as a lathi charge, water canons and other such measures failed. Firing was a last resort and that too under the waist, and not above.

In Jammu and Kashmir these rules have not been observed, with the pellet guns turning into a lethal gun in the hands of the police and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Doctors in Srinagar have been pointing out that the pellet injuries, as in the case of young Bhat, are causing severe damage and are proving to be more lethal than even bullet injuries.

Srinagar is on a knife’s edge, having been placed there by the ruling coalition with the death of young people at the hands of the police fuelling the fire. This has been added to by the uncertainties created over the relocation of Kashmiri pandits, the release of Masarat Alam, the re-arrest of Masarat Alam, and the inability of the Mufti government to deliver on the ground. The Kashmir Valley has still not overcome the trauma of the massive floods with even slightly overcast skies and rain leading to speculation about the possibility of a second disaster.

In the midst of this the injuries to the Class X boy has created tremendous resentment, with the PDP clearly not following up on its own protests against the use of pellet guns. The separatists have demanded a ban on both pellet guns and pepper spray. There is no indication, so far of any concrete response from either the PDP or the BJP.