NEW DELHI — Indian government troops will begin using some chili-filled shells instead of shotgun pellets to control angry crowds in the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said Monday.
Singh was in Srinagar with a group of federal lawmakers to try to break the latest cycle of violence hitting the region.
Kashmir has experienced some of its biggest displays of anti-India anger in recent history after Indian troops killed a hugely popular rebel commander on July 8. Troops have used live ammunition and pellet guns to control rock-throwing crowds, killing more than 70 people and leaving thousands of others injured.
According to local officials and doctors, the use of pellet guns has killed at least four people and left more than 100 partially or completely blind.
The new chili-filled shells are said to severely irritate and temporarily immobilize their targets.
Singh said the government had asked experts to suggest replacements for the pellet guns and their recommendation was PAVA shells, which are filled with the same compound found in chili peppers.
“I understand that no one will lose their life due to the use of PAVA,” Singh said.
He said that 1,000 shells had reached Kashmir on Sunday.
Despite an almost continuous curfew in most parts of the troubled Himalayan region since the July killing of rebel commander Burhan Wani, thousands of people have defied government troops and poured into the streets on an almost daily basis.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both. Most Kashmiris want an end to Indian rule and favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.