SRINAGAR: Security forces using pellet guns to disperse crowds of stone-throwing young protesters in Kashmir have killed more than 100 people, blinding hundreds and maiming thousands over the past year.
The clashes, sparked by the killing of separatist Burhan Wani by security forces on July 8 last year, have recently spread to college campuses and schools and are drawing a new generation into a decades-old struggle for ‘Azadi’, or independence.
Pellet guns are intended not to be lethal, but their use by the security forces has caused severe injuries and the deaths of several bystanders, women and children among them.
Human rights groups have urged India to renounce their use, calling it a violation of United Nations’ principles of restraint.
Some protesters rebel not only against Indian rule, but also against their parents. Each wave of street protests – the last were in 2008 and 2010 – radicalises a new wave of young people.
“I was hit by pellets during stone pelting. I have 80 percent vision in my right eye now,” said one 20-year-old student.
These protests have unleashed a political crisis in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, governed for the first time by a regional party in coalition with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which draws support from India’s Hindu majority.