Mass condemns use of pellet guns on protesting students in Imphal

Mass condemns use of pellet guns on protesting students in Imphal

 Imphal: At a time when the Indian government is mulling over replacing pellet guns after their non-lethal tags have been questioned, the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), deployed in Manipur, to control the ongoing public protests, have allegedly used the weapon, inflicting serious injuries to at least 10 students, including minors in uniform.

This is allegedly the first time in the country that pellet guns are used for crowd control on protesting students in uniform, drawing mass condemnation from all over.

The injured are undergoing treatment at different hospitals in the state capital Imphal, drawing a grim reminder of the security forces using the weapon to quell protests in Jammu and Kashmir, allegedly killing and maiming many children.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, taking serious note of using pellet guns on protestors in Jammu and Kashmir had asked New Delhi to end the use of the weapon.

In the UN Report on Children 2021, he called upon the Indian Government to take “preventive measures to protect children, including ending the use of pellets against children.”

During the intense student protests in the streets of Imphal on Tuesday (September 26) and Wednesday (September 27).

The security forces, especially the Rapid Action Force (RAF) troopers, allegedly fired pellet guns from close range on the protestors, inflicting deep pellet injuries to at least 10 students.

The uprising erupted after photographs of the bodies of two students who went missing on July 6 this year went viral on social media. Several students, including minors, received multiple pellet wounds on the shoulders, heads, eyes, and limbs during the protests against the killing of the students.

17-year-old class 12 student, Loitongbam Kishan, was one of the protesters, whose right shoulder was shattered by pellets fired from close range.

According to the plastic and reconstructive surgeon Dr Indranil Dutta, Kishan was brought to the emergency ward of the Shija Hospital in Imphal profusely bleeding and in serious pain.

Upon examination, an emergency surgical operation was performed on Wednesday (September 27) to remove the pellets as well as to control the bleeding and repair the structure.

“On examination, he had some sort of shoulder dysfunction. On the OT table, we found many muscles that contribute to shoulder function have been severely damaged.

There were approximately 90 pellets there. Because these were very small pellets of about 1mm and some were even less than 1mm, some were 2mm pellets, it was not possible to remove everything because that may damage the function of the shoulder,” the surgeon said.

“In order to preserve the function of the shoulder I had removed around 60 pellets. The rest of the pellets we can take care of later.

Right now, bleeding is controlled, the patient is recovering but shoulder function may take three to six months time to regain,” the surgeon added.

The surgeon further said the patient was stable but lost a lot of blood and may require a blood transfusion.

Narrating the excesses of the security forces leading to his grievous injuries, Kishan said, “They started dispersing us using tear gas shells. I was hiding behind a house.

After a while, after the commotion had died down, I came out of hiding. Just then an RAF personnel came charging in and we were face-to-face. He then put his gun on my shoulder and shot me.”

Another 20-year-old protestor, Uttam Soibam, who sustained multiple pellet wounds on his head was operated on Friday (September 29) at the Raj Medicity Hospital in Imphal.

Surgeons successfully removed over 61 pellets from him and declared him out of danger.

However, he would need several surgeries to remove the entire pellets struck on his skull, the doctors said. Soibam, who is a national Wushu player narrated how he sustained his injury.

“That day, we took part in a protest and after that, three of us were hiding in a campus of a house. The RAF shot at us from outside the gate,” Soibam said.

Recalling the incident, Soibam continued, “I guess they intentionally shot at us. They carried out a search operation and whoever they suspected, they shot at directly.”

“When I got hurt, the owner of the house gave me first aid but those RAF personnel detained the ambulance for around 30 minutes. Later, with the help of the state forces I was rescued,” Soibam added.

Taking note of the people’s ire against using the lethal weapon, a meeting of senior CAPF officers was convened at Manipur police headquarters in Imphal to discuss the fallout of the prevailing law and order situation on Thursday (September 28).

“The officers were apprised of the unfortunate injuries of students as well as security personnel. The forces discussed using minimum force in dealing with the public, especially students,” the Manipur police said.

The state police, while appealing to the students to cooperate with the law enforcement agencies in maintaining peace and bringing normalcy back early, cautioned that any miscreants taking advantage of the current situation will be firmly dealt with by the police.

The joint security forces are making all efforts for an expeditious investigation into all the cases, the Manipur police added.

Meanwhile, the Manipur Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MCPCR) opined that the strategy and approach for controlling the young students and children protestors must be different from adult protestors.

A general appeal made by the commission said that lathi charge, tear gas shells and rubber bullets should not be used arbitrarily and abruptly against the children.

If required, the security forces should use other less injurious means such as repeated convincing warnings through loudspeakers, ensuring adequate barricades, and water cannons may be an option as the last resort while encountering young children.

“Excessive and disproportionate use of force on children and young students is unbecoming in a democratic country like India, a country which ratified the UN Convention on Rights of the Child and where Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is in force,” the commission stated.

“A groundbreaking training manual for police and security forces, juvenile justice, human rights and decent mob control standard must be introduced,” the commission’s chairperson Manibabu Phurailatpam said.

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