NEW DELHI: Chilli-filled PAVA (Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide) grenades will replace pellet guns to control protesters in Kashmir. The Central decision, however, has not found favour with the central reserve police force (CRPF), which is in the forefront of handling the unrest in the Valley.
Trying to put forward the humane face of the government, home minister Rajnath Singh declared in Srinagar on Thursday that the Centre is keen on an alternative to the pellet guns. “When I came here last time I said I’ve set up an expert committee, which will submit its report in two months… I want to inform you that one month has passed and within three-four days expert committee will submit its report. Within a few days we will give alternative to the pellet gun,” Singh said.
According to sources, the committee has zeroed in on chilli-filled PAVA grenades as simulation tests of the shells have been done even on children of 12 years age and have proved to be safe. Under trial for over a year at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research, a Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) laboratory in Lucknow, its full development has come at a time when Kashmir is on the boil.
Sources close to the committee said it has recommended that the Tear Smoke Unit (TSU) of the BSF in Gwalior should be tasked with bulk production of the shells “immediately”, with the first lot not of less than 50,000 rounds. On the Scoville scale (the degree to measure the power of chilli), PAVA is categorised as “above peak” meaning it will severely irritate and paralyse humans, but temporarily.
Once fired, the shells burst and temporarily stuns and immobilises the target (protestors) in a more effective way than a tear gas shell or pepper guns. The panel noted that PAVA is “biosafe, better than chilli grenade or tear smoke shell and can also be used in combination with stun and tear shells” by security forces. The committee is understood to have recommended the supply of few other non-lethal/less-lethal munition.
However, the CRPF thinks the announcement has come too soon than expected and without any proper preparations. “We are not yet ready for any other alternative yet. It is one thing to espouse ban on pellet guns and another to be on the streets and face blood-thirsty mobs of hundreds. The pellet guns are the least lethal weapon we can use to handle such mobs that are ready to overrun police stations and secure camps,” said a senior CRPF official.
The CRPF officials, who have handled the ground situation in the Valley, claim these alternatives are going to be of little use against the fury of the mobs and are not fool-proof against overzealous mobs that uses local geography to their advantage. “Committed agitators who are ready to risk their lives will find ways to outwit the alternatives. In such a scenario we may have to turn back to the safety of regular service weapons that will increase casualty rate,” said the official.
From July 9 to August 11, CRPF has fired over ‘3,000’ pellet cartridges (16 lakh pellets) with each containing 450 metallic balls. Pellet guns were earlier used for hunting animals because when it is fired the cylindrical munitions bursts and tiny ball bearings sprinkles in air with lethal ferocity. Though the pallet guns have not caused much of the fatalities, it has blinded many people since its induction in 2010.