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Amnesty calls for ban on pellet shotguns in Kashmir

© AFP/File | An Indian member of the security forces points a pellet gun towards Kashmiri protesters

SRINAGAR (INDIA) (AFP) - 

Amnesty International on Wednesday reiterated its call for a ban on pellet-firing shotguns used by Indian forces in Kashmir to quell civilian protests.

In a report the rights group said it had interviewed 88 people whose eyesight had been damaged by the metal shot from the pump-action guns.

Two of the victims had been completely blinded.

"The injuries and deaths caused by this cruel weapon bear testimony to how dangerous, inaccurate and indiscriminate it is," Akar Patel, executive director at Amnesty International India, said in a statement.

"There is no proper way to use pellet-firing shotguns. It is irresponsible of the authorities to continue the use of the shotguns despite being aware of the damage they do."

Government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir have been using pellet guns since 2010 as a "non-lethal" weapon following widescale civilian protests against Indian rule.

After a spate of gruesome injuries last year that earned the title "epidemic of dead eyes", Amnesty and other rights groups called for a complete ban on the use of the shotguns.

A single cartridge fired releases at least 500 high-speed metal pellets. These lodge in any available body part and are difficult to remove.

"In some cases, those injured by pellet-firing shotguns still have the metal pellets lodged in their skulls, near their eyes," said Dr Zahoor Wani, the lead campaigner in the group.

In its report, Amnesty said it interviewed people aged from nine to 65.

Among them was nine-year-old Asif Ahmad Shiekh, whose eyes were damaged by the pellets.

"Watching cartoons on TV, playing with my friends on the street, reading books for hours -- this is what I dream of now," the report quoted him as saying.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.

Rebel groups have fought for decades, demanding independence or a merger of the former Himalayan kingdom with Pakistan.

© 2017 AFP