The valley of Kashmir, a territory disputed by India and Pakistan since 1947, is one of the most militarized zones in the world. In 2010 the Indian government provided the security forces deployed in the state with a new weapon. Shotgun shells filled with hundreds of small lead pellets are since then used to keep urban protests under control. Defined as a “non-lethal” weapon, pellet guns should be aimed at the lower part of the body.
On 8 July 2016 the main guerrilla group’s young commander Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter by the Indian army. Popular especially among the youth, Wani’s martyrdom was the sparkle that lighted up the entire valley. The government imposed a four-monthlong curfew on the local population, while separatist leaders called for a continuous strike.
Hundreds of people filled the streets protesting against the “Indian occupation”, throwing stones against the army. Security forces, since July 2016, responded using pellet guns extensively.
According to a UN report released in 2018, the weapon is responsible for blinding around 1000 people and killing dozens
Many of the victims were not involved in the clashes with security forces. Those who were hit during the protests tend to avoid speaking about it openly, fearing retaliation.
Carrying dozens of pellets in their bodies, victims face unknown long term health consequences.
Left partially or totally blind, victims speak of the darkness descended upon their lives. The only things left to see are the faint shadows that surround them.