Pellet Guns continue to be used in Kashmir but Govt bans their use on animals

Animals are now safe from the use of unrestricted use of pellets/air guns but not Kashmiris, it would seem.

pellet guns in kashmir
Image: Times of India

The move to restrict sale of pellet or air guns was made after a sustained campaign by animal rights activists and on the recommendation of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).A one-and-a-half decades’ struggle of animal rights activists has finally yielded result as the Central government has ordered that sale of pellet or air guns will be only through a licensed arms dealer.

The MHA has through a notification banned the unrestricted use of pellets against animals, but the Jammu and Kashmir High Court (recently) has not banned their use against civilians in Kashmir. The MHA has reportedly constituted a committee of experts to suggest alternatives to the use of pellet guns. An air gun releasing two joules energy can kill a bird, five joules energy can kill a monkey and 20 joules can kill a human being. 

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), according to PTI, issued this notification protecting animals, very recently. The move to restrict sale of pellet or air guns was made after a sustained campaign by animal rights activists and on the recommendation of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).

The uncontrolled use of pellets by the army, paramilitary and police, on protesters in Kashmir have blinded close to 100 persons, especially young children inside homes had resulted in national and international outrage as most victims have been blinded by the use of pellets banned internationally Official data relating to 45 days of street violence in Kashmir, procured by The Hindu from 10 districts, showed that around 3,000 civilians were injured by pellets and 122 by bullets. This report said that around 51 per cent of the 5,800 civilians injured in Kashmir in the ongoing violence were hit by pellets and most of them were in constituencies represented by the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) in south Kashmir. Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts saw relatively fewer injuries.

According to a notification issued in the case of animals only a few weeks ago, sale and transfer of pellet guns can only be made through a registered arms dealer. Earlier, it could have been procured from toy shops easily. The fresh notification said that “sale, transfer and keeping for sale or transfer of all types of air weapons including air rifles, air guns and paintball markers or guns irrespective of the muzzle energy or calibre or bore shall be only through the authorised arms and ammunition dealers or the air weapon dealers licensed under these rules”.

An air gun having muzzle energy less than 20 joules can only be sold against an identification and residence proof of the buyer and such a gun with muzzle energy of more than 20 joules will be sold only through an authorised arms and ammunition dealer to a valid arms licence holder. An air gun releasing two joules energy can kill a bird, five joules energy can kill a monkey and 20 joules can kill a human being.

So, while the Jammu & Kashmir Bar Association lost its battle to get pellets banned (and the high court there held that until there is violence by unruly mobs, use of force is inevitable.), animals have been protected by this irrational use by the MHA.

[A bench comprising chief justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and justice Ali Mohammad Magrey also declined the plea to prosecute the officers who ordered use of pellet guns or fired them even as it directed the authorities to provide adequate medical treatment to the injured by specialists in or outside the state This plea had been filed in the J & K High Court in late September, seeking a ban on the use of pellet guns in the valley, animals have won this right to be free of being targeted by pellets. On September 21, the court had also said, “ “Having regard to the ground situation prevailing as of now and the fact that Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs has already constituted a Committee of Experts through its Memorandum dated July 26, 2016 for exploring other alternative to pellet guns….“Before filing of the report by the Expert Committee and a decision taken at the government level, we are not inclined to prohibit the use of pellet guns in rare and extreme situations,” the court said in its order.]

The AWBI was more successful with the MHA. While making its plea to the Union Home Ministry had said that air guns, air pistols or air files procured without a license would adversely affect the animals. Animal right activist Gauri Maulekhi of People For Animals (PFA), an organisation which has been spearheading a campaign for banning unrestricted sale of air guns, said her organisation had received hundreds of complaints about its misuse.

“PFA received hundreds of complaints from people about how their neighbours were shooting stray dogs and how children were doing target practice on birds and other animals. “To us this suggested a trend which led to a stakeholder consultation and then we decided that there should be some kind of restriction,” she said.

PFA had first moved the Delhi High Court in 2000 seeking ban on unrestricted sale of air guns, air pistols and air rifles and secured a favourable order in 2002. However, the order was challenged by National Rifle Association of India and Manufacturers of Toy Airgun, Rifle, Pistol and Pellet Association in the Supreme Court which stayed the high court verdict prompting the activists to approach the government again.

“We told them that a pellet gun is a killer and that gun is going to be used on either birds or squirrels or dogs. It is creating a whole viciousness. You either license them or remove them,” Maulekhi said and expressed her happiness over the government order which was issued in later part of July this year.

As pellet guns continue to be used on protesters in Kashmir, Govt bans their use on animals



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