CECIL VICTOR. Editorial. XXI.XII.XVIII
Pelletguns Losing Hearts And
By Cecil Victor
The central credo of counter-insurgency/counter-terror operations is the need to win the hearts and minds of the disaffected population. The way these operations are being conducted in Jammu and Kashmir appears that we are hellbent on creating a situation where the writ of the nation-State is challenged in the streets by citizens becoming increasingly amenable to instigation from Pakistan. At the heart of the matter is the pelletgun.
Generically the pelletgun is a shotgun which spews small metal pellets in an ever widening radius over distance. Thus it is blatantly indiscriminate in wounding persons not directly involved in the disturbance. Sometimes children (even babes in arms whose mothers are unable to get out of the line of fire in congested streets) fall prey. It is called “collateral damage”. It keeps stoking the disaffection and has very nearly wiped out the goodwill and restraint brought about by years of “Sadhbhavna” projects that were intended to bring Kashmiri youth into the mainstream.
Such is the state of affairs that Governor Satya Pal Mallik (who now rules Jammu and Kashmir in the absence of an elected government) has directed security forces inclusive of the Army, the police and paramilitary personnel to adhere to “standard operating procedures” (SOPs) to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage. That there is a shortcoming in the standard operating procedure has been glossed over. The shortcoming is the presence of the pelletgun in the armoury of the security forces.
Chief of Army Staff Gen Bipin Rawat has vehemently defended the use of the pelletguns to be able to effectively control the activity of stonepelters. The fact remains that over the past few months it has become starkly obvious that this weapon has not helped in controlling violent mobs but has contributed to the general hostility among the people. Removing it from the arsenal can reduce the collateral damage – an effect that is measureable in the dispersal of the pellets from the position of the shooter.
Following up on suggestions that security forces could use the same weapon that the Israelis have been using on the riotous Palestinians –a stinking fluid dispersible by water cannon – the Central Reserve Police Force ordered a consignment for testing in Indian conditions. Tests showed that it was not malodorous enough to deter the Indian protester. It also became obvious that the weapon could very easily be used indiscriminately in crowded localities to discomfit the local population in a fit of vengeance.
Stonepelters are a different kettle of fish. It is obvious in the very manner in which they are deployed during and after a cordon-and-search operation by the security forces acting on irrefutable intelligence of the presence of terrorists in a given area that they are acting as forward echelons of Pakistan inspired terrorists.
For them the standard operating procedure is to shoot below the belt (which is the legal norm). Shooting above that is permissible only if the attacker is armed with a gun. This comes under the purview of self-defence. That stones are “non-lethal” is debatable in the face of deaths and injuries to several security personnel.
In instances where masked terrorists have shown up to provide gun salutes to those who have been killed in encounters with the security forces they should be shot dead by sharpshooters from vantage points. For too long they have been allowed to thumb their nose at a beleaguered security phalanx that has been asked to show restraint. If they flaunt their weaponry (weapons that have been snatched from Indian security forces to further a foreign gameplan) they deserve no mercy for their attacks on local police, special police officers and the network of informers who have helped decimate terrorist groups with accurate actionable intelligence. If the sharpshooter is deployed it will diffuse the psychological warfare that these elements are waging on the orders of the Pakistan Army Inter-Services Intelligence.
While infiltration across the Line of Control is reported to have reduced and a large number of infiltrators have been killed or captured while trying to enter Jammu and Kashmir, the government is acutely aware of Pakistan’s attempts to revive the Khalistan Sikh movement in neighbouring Punjab.
India needs to revamp its counter-insurgency network in both Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. Imran Khan, who reportedly confessed to tampering the cricket ball, is about to bowl more googlies.
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