In July 2016, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir erupted in protests against the killing of prominent militant leader Burhan Wani by security forces. In the violent clashes that ensued between Indian authorities and protesters, at least 87 people were killed and thousands injured. In this report, Physicians for Human Rights describes the excessive and indiscriminate use of force against protesters by Indian state police and Central Reserve Police Forces with weapons misleadingly represented as “less than lethal.” These included tear gas grenades, pepper gas shells, live ammunition, and 12-gauge shotguns loaded with metal pellets, which account for the majority of injuries. While Indian authorities claimed that the use of these weapons was meant to reduce the potential for injuries or fatalities, PHR researchers found that their use had in fact caused serious injury and death.
PHR also found that authorities actively impeded protestors’ access to urgent medical care, both by harassing medical workers attempting to treat protesters and by preventing doctors from reaching the hospitals where they work. PHR documented several instances where police were present at hospitals and monitored protesters being admitted for treatment. They were reported to have asked for the names and medical information of patients admitted at the end of the day in order to later arrest them for “unlawful assemblies.”
The excessive use of force and the intimidation tactics employed by authorities against medical workers attempting to treat the injured violate India’s obligation to protect the rights to life, health, and freedom of expression and assembly. The police response to these protests shows complete indifference to the international standards and principles guiding the use of force, and a lack of accountability leaves security forces free rein to further abuse their power.