The government has decided to use new generation non-lethal weapons to take on stone-throwing protestors in Jammu and Kashmir. Both central security forces and the state police have been asked to train their personnel in using pepper balls, chilli grenades, 20-feet high movable iron walls, electronic guns and water cannons.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had emphasised at the DGP conference on the use of non-lethal weapons for crowd control. "We need to visit standard operating procedures and crowd control measures to deal with public agitation with non-lethal, yet effective and focused measures. We also cannot have an approach of one size fits all," Singh had said.
Sixty-four civilians lost their lives to guns-hot wounds over the past few months in the Valley during clashes with security forces. The Jammu and Kashmir police have started using electronic guns that makes a person unconscious for a couple of minutes. Field trials of other non-lethal weapons are on and the state police will start using them in the next few months.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) is already conducting field trials of chilli grenades. These grenades will be used against protesters and during combating terrorists.
"The police are already using 150 electronic guns and each police station has received two of them to control the protesters. But these are very less and police have asked for more such guns. It is a very expensive equipment and costs up to $1,200 each while the cost of each cartridge is $40," said a senior home ministry official.
The officer said there was a need to come up with innovative, non-lethal ways to control the mob. "During a discussion, it was suggested that water cannons should be used on protesters and the police personnel should also be asked to spray water on their houses as well so that people feel cold at night because of wet walls and don't come to challenge security forces the next day," the officer said.
Another innovative but less expensive equipment that would be seen on the streets of Srinagar is the 20-feet iron wall that would be fitted with wheels so that policemen would be able to take shelter behind it when protesters start throwing stones on them. "We are distributing this equipment to the state police and it will help them protect themselves from stones during clashes," the source added.
It is not only the protesters who have been killed or injured in the violent clashes but security personnel have also suffered injuries and some have even lost their vision due to injury. In the past 80 days of clashes, starting June 11 this year, around 1,069 paramilitary personnel have sustained injuries. There have been at least 10 incidents when protesters have either hurled grenades or fired at policemen.