Indian security forces suppressing protests in Kashmir used 12-gauge shotguns unsuited to crowd control, causing permanent injuries to hundreds of people, including blindness, a U.S.-based rights group said Tuesday.
The group Physicians for Human Rights said that security forces have routinely blocked access to medical care in violation of international law.
The unrest was sparked by the killing in July of a popular rebel commander against Indian rule in the divided Himalayan region which is also claimed by Pakistan. At least 90 civilians have been killed.
Physicians for Human Rights said it interviewed doctors and injured protesters and reviewed hospital records. It found shotguns have caused at least a dozen deaths and 5,200 injuries, including hundreds resulting in permanent disability. It said shotguns fire cartridges containing more than 600 pellets — ammunition it described as "inherently indiscriminate and inaccurate" that should never be used against protesters.
"At close range, such weapons have the force of live ammunition. 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," said the group's medical adviser, Dr. Rohini Haar.
The group's report, published Monday, also accuses Indian authorities of routinely blocked access to urgent medical care for injured protesters by firing on ambulances, holding up emergency vehicles at roadblocks, and interfering with medical care inside hospitals. It described that as a "violation of India's obligations under international law to protect the rights to life and health."
India's Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.