India using indiscriminate force in Kashmir: Rights group
A rights group has accused Indian security forces of using indiscriminate force against protesters in Kashmir, saying the forces have been routinely blocking medical care for injured protesters in the restive region this year.
In a report published on Monday, the group, Physicians for Human Rights, said the security forces were increasing the likelihood of permanent injuries and deaths by firing on ambulances, holding up emergency vehicles at roadblocks, and interfering with medical care inside hospitals.
“Such delays in care are violations of the longstanding protections afforded to medical workers and facilities in times of conflict and civil unrest,” said Widney Brown, the director of programs for the group.
“What’s more, the doctors we interviewed said police were present in their hospitals, intimidating patients and monitoring those being admitted,” he added.
The group described the alleged measures by Indian security forces as a “violation of India’s obligations under international law to protect the rights to life and health.”
Indian-controlled Kashmir has witnessed increased violence since July, when Burhan Wani, a top figure in a pro-independence group, was killed in a shootout with Indian troops, acting on a tip, in Kokernag area.
At least 80 people have been killed and more than 10,000 others wounded in the almost five months of unrest in the region.
The rights group said many of those killed in the clashes died of wounds from shotgun pellets or rifle bullets fired by police. The shotguns have also resulted in at least 5,200 injuries, including hundreds resulting in permanent blindness, also according to the rights group.
Injuries inflicted by the weapons “require early medical intervention to avoid permanent or debilitating injury, including loss of life,” it said, describing the ammunition as “inherently indiscriminate and inaccurate,” which should never be used against protesters.
“At close range, such weapons have the force of live ammunition,” said the group’s medical adviser, Rohini Haar. “And at a distance, the pellets disperse and can take an unpredictable trajectory, meaning they can indiscriminately inflict severe injury on nonviolent protesters or bystanders, particularly when those pellets strike the head, neck, face, or eyes.”
Indian authorities say the forces use such weapons to reduce the potential for injuries or fatalities. Police in Kashmir say they fire the pellet guns from short distances in the “unavoidable circumstances” when protesters target security forces.