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CECIL VICTOR. Editorial.IV.XXV.XVII
DEALING WITH PELTERS
By Cecil Victor
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been going downhill at a rapid pace. The Supreme Court of India had to intervene to try and find a replacement/alternative to the infamous “pellet gun”.
Meanwhile, the local commander in the Kashmir valley had a bright idea which he implemented with great elan – he tied a local to the bonnet of a vehicle and drove it into a crowd of stonepelters. As was to be expected no stones hit the trussed up target. My objection to this procedure is that tying up a lowly daily wage earner to the bonnet of a targeted military vehicle hardly serves the political purpose.
My ‘umble' suggestion (as they say in august courtrooms) is that instead of picking up such “non-persons”, the PDP-BJP rulers should pick up the Hurriyat leaders, tie them to the bonnet, and take them for a long drive through avenues lined with stonepelters. It is these leaders, fattening on the biryani made available by the rulers of Kashmir that are the real instigators and mentors of the young stonepelters. They are part and parcel of the weekly dose of violence after Friday prayers when Pakistani and, increasingly, Chinese flags are waved by the agitators.
My other suggestion to ameliorate the effects of the pellet gun (a misnomer for a shotgun) and to relegate it to a weapon of absolutely last resort is a liquid-based chemical that stinks like hell. A product of an Israeli laboratory it can be dispensed either from a water cannon or hand-held aerosol dispensers. It has been described as something that smells like socks that had not been washed for a year, to long-stagnant sewage. It is appropriately named “Skunk”. Its USP is that the stink does not abate even after a bath and the victim cannot claim innocence for the crime of stonepelting. Which young man (or young woman) would like to be seen outside the home stinking like sewage? And which mother (who seems to be encouraging children to indulge in stonepelting) would sleep peacefully with a child smelling like dead rats in the house?
There is, of course, a caveat attached: Security forces must be strictly held to the injunction that they cannot indiscriminately spray the liquid into houses and places of worship.
A well-publicised lecture-demonstration of the method of dispersal and the effect of a spray of Skunk may well have the desired effect of dissipating the pelters’ brigade.
As for the pellet gun it has been suggested by the authorities that a modified version is to be deployed. A horizontal nozzle is to be attached to the original gun which will change the dispersal of the pellets after they leave the barrel from the circular to the horizontal. This, it is said, will ensure that the target is not sprayed with pellets on the face and head. The legal requirement is that such lethal weapons can only be used to shoot offenders below the belt.
It is at about 25 meters that stone pelting becomes effective against security forces on foot or in convoys of vehicles. At that distance the dispersal from a horizontally-oriented muzzle will be approximately five feet in height and a lateral spread of about 10 ft. Even if the gun is aimed at the knees of the juvenile agitators it will spray the pellets up to the face.
Apart from the equipment used for crowd control there are other aspects to the Kashmir counter-insurgency/counter-terror scenario that need to be rectified. The current Chief of Army Staff was handpicked by the NDA government for his expertise in this type of warfare. Given the manner in which the government has backed his truculent statement on dealing with stone pelters and the unconventional methods that have hitherto been employed it is clear that he has the full backing of the government.
That is why it should be expected that the government give him the appropriate equipment for the job. It has long been felt that security forces need a bulletproof/stoneproof vehicle for rapid deployment into trouble spots. In absence of this specialized kind of vehicle the Army has been using the “mine protected vehicle” named Casspir bought from South Africa some decades ago. An officer based in Srinagar decided to use this vehicle to visit a local college to liaise with the Principal on some issue. The presence of this behemoth was so provocative that students reacted sharply, adding to the general chaos.
The ‘mine protected vehicle’ has a chequered history in counter-insurgency in India. It has been deployed against the Maoists in the “Red Belt” in central India. Someone in the Maoist cadres did his homework on the specifications of the Casspir and discovered that it can withstand only up to 15 kg of explosives. So in their ambushes the Maoists began planting improvised explosive devices containing as much as 50 kg of explosives. The effect has been that the undercarriage is blown to smithereens and the vehicle crumbles like a matchbox killing and maiming the jawans inside.
Time for a thorough review.
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