Chilli pepper balls may replace pellets in Kashmir

New Delhi : A government-appointed experts panel has recommended chilli pepper-filled balls to replace the dangerous pellets as less lethal ammunition to control protesting crowds in Jammu and Kashmir.

Government sources told IANS on Friday that the seven-member committee has submitted its report that recommends PAVA, containing an irritant chemical found in natural chilli, to be used against protesters in Kashmir.

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The recommendation comes after global criticism over the use of pellet guns against Kashmiri protesters that have killed at least three and maimed or blinded thousands of civilians. Hundreds of the injured have either partially or fully lost their eyesight.

The payload of these guns is filled with the Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide, or PAVA — a synthetic compound found in chillies but stronger in intensity than the pepper.

Also called pepper shots, the ammunition is used in many countries across the world as an effective tool for riot control.

The projectile, after being shot, breaks upon impact and releases an almost barely visible irritant powder. As the chilli-filled balls burst after hitting the target, the ammunition need not be shot directly at the rioters. It can be shot effectively up to a range of 150 feet.

It can even be shot at a hard surface in the rioter’s vicinity to overwhelm him or her with the cloud of the powder it releases. The powder causes severe irritation and paralyses any person in the vicinity temporarily.

Unlike pellets, chilli pepper balls do not penetrate skin or pose ricochet hazards, making it a less dangerous weapon for defence even at short range.

Pellet guns have been used by security forces as a tool to control unruly mobs since 2010 when some 120 people were killed in firing by security forces following street protests.

Human rights groups have criticised the use of pellets because they can leave a victim maimed or blinded for life.

A pellet gun sprays small iron ball bearings towards a target with high velocity. These bearings can pierce a human body in dozens of spots.

Any final decision on the use of chilli pepper-filled balls in Kashmir is awaiting the home ministry nod, the sources said.

The panel that recommended its use included officers from the home ministry, paramilitary forces, Jammu and Kashmir Police, IIT Delhi and Ordnance Factory Board.

Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday announced in Srinagar that the panel had already submitted its report and a final decision on an alternative to pellet guns in Kashmir will be made “in a few days”.