Indian security forces will use shells full of a chilli compound in place of shotgun pellets, to control crowds in Kashmir, home minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday, after widespread use of the weapons wounded thousands and sparked a global outcry.
More than 3,800 people have been wounded and one killed by shotgun pellets since protests against Indian rule erupted in the disputed territory in early July, with more than 100 left partially or fully blinded, official figures show.
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) August 29, 2016
Doctors say most cases go unreported, and critics want the government to use less harmful ammunition.
"The committee has given its suggestions and the alternative of the non-lethal weapon has been suggested as PAVA shells," Singh told reporters as he led an all-party delegation to Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
He said security forces would begin using the shells, made of a compound found naturally in chilli powder, after a panel of experts decided they were sometimes a better alternative to pellet guns.
Wrong Decision. India to replace pellet guns with chilli-filled shells in Kashmir, cause severe irritation and temporarily immobilize target
— Anshul Saxena (@AskAnshul) September 5, 2016
The chilli compound, when fired, is thought to cause severe irritation and temporarily immobilise the target.
Singh said, "I think that won't result in the death of anyone. Since yesterday, 1,000 shells have already arrived here."
Although pellet guns are designed to be non-lethal weapons, police officers have told Reuters that security forces are often forced to use them at close range to protect themselves from mob attacks.
Centre approves use of chilli-filled grenades as alternative to #pellet guns for crowd controlling.
— All India Radio News (@airnewsalerts) September 3, 2016
India is struggling to contain the worst unrest in Muslim-majority Kashmir since 2010, and Singh's trip to Srinagar appeared to make little headway in resolving a crisis that has left 73 people dead, 71 of them civilians.
Chilli-filled PAVA shells can blind too, says doctors bodyhttps://t.co/bjezVQeXVz
— Kashmir Reader (@Kashmir_Reader) September 1, 2016
On Sunday, separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani turned delegation members away at the door of his home, where he is under house arrest.
Singh said India was "pained" by the unrest in Kashmir, but lashed out at separatists for refusing to talk.
— Faizan lone (@eccentricfaizan) August 26, 2016
Protests erupted in Kashmir after security forces killed a popular separatist leader Burhan Wani on July 8, catching New Delhi off guard.
Thousands of stone-pelting locals take to the streets almost every day in the protests, led largely by young people without an obvious leader, complicating efforts to tackle them.
Chilli-filled #PAVA shells(pelargonic acid vanillyl amide),temporarily incapacitates the target & renders them immobile for several minutes.
— Yawar Hayat (@iyawarhayat) August 26, 2016
Kashmir, claimed in full but ruled in part by India and Pakistan, has been at the centre of nearly seven decades of hostility between the neighbours.