By Fayaz Bukhari
SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) – India has asked its security forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests in disputed Kashmir and replace pellet guns with non-lethal weapons, its home affairs minister said on Sunday.
Forty six people have been killed and more 5,000 wounded, including Indian security forces, since protests erupted after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8.
Normal life remains paralyzed because of the curfew imposed by the government and calls for a shutdown by separatist leaders.
“I appeal to the youth not to resort to stone pelting and I also want to appeal to the security forces not to use pellets. I have told security forces to use maximum possible restraint,” Rajnath Singh said, winding up his two-day visit to Kashmir.
Kashmir has been at the center of a tussle between New Delhi and Islamabad for decades, as both claim the region in full but rule it in part.
“We don’t need the involvement of a third party to address the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. I want to tell my neighbor that you are yourself a victim of terrorism,” said Singh.
Since they split some 67 years ago, India and Pakistan have fought each other in three wars, two over Kashmir. There has not been a full-blown war since they both tested nuclear weapons in 1998.
Singh on Thursday told lawmakers that India would set up a panel to look for an alternative to pellet guns.
More than 300 people have suffered because of pellet guns, including 171 with eye injuries, Kaisar Ahmad, principal of the Government Medical College in Srinagar, told Reuters.
(Editing by Euan Rocha and Raissa Kasolowsky)