India and Israel’s “humane” strategy: Why kill them quickly when you can give them a slow, painful death?

Published: January 24, 2018

Kashmiri doctors and paramedics, their eyes covered by patches, protested at a hospital in Srinagar. PHOTO: AFP

Amnesty International India recently launched a postcard campaign calling on the Indian government to ban the use of pellet guns in Jammu and Kashmir. Indian authorities argue that pellet guns are non-lethal and continue their use.

There is some truth to India’s claims. Pellet guns overwhelmingly blind, injure, and maim, but do not instantly kill. They are, therefore, posited as more humane and acceptable instruments of crowd control.

A similar logic is behind Israel’s use of rubber bullets in Gaza.

The question then arises: Are India and Israel actually being more humane? Or is there a political strategy behind their decision to blind and maim Kashmiris and Palestinians, as opposed to killing them?

According to Amnesty International, while at least 14 people were killed in Kashmir in 2016, thousands were injured. Incapacitated in myriad ways from being blinded to disabled, victims have suffered the loss of livelihood, trauma and immobility – experiences that squeeze out life, gradually.

Amnesty International reports:

“People injured by pellet-firing shotguns have faced serious physical and mental health issues, including symptoms of psychological trauma. School and university students who were hit in the eyes said that they continue to have learning difficulties. Several victims who were the primary breadwinners for their families fear they will not be able to work any longer. Many have not regained their eyesight despite repeated surgeries.”

A more appropriate way to describe these pellets and rubber bullets, then, is “lethal over time”. The language of non-lethality is simply a rhetorical excuse by cruel governments to wage wars while carefully eliding responsibility for mass debilitation.

Indeed, with the rise of human rights watchdogs, prior approaches of “catch and kill” are less plausible. States have, therefore, moved on to what gender studies scholar Jasbir Puar has described as “shooting to maim”.

This strategy entails causing bodily injury and inducing mass debilitation to bring about a gradual humanitarian collapse. Rather than killing their targets instantly, they leave them to die painful, slow deaths.

Feminist scholar Lauren Berlant theorises “slow death” as “the physical wearing out of a population and the deterioration of people in that population that is very nearly a defining condition of their experience and historical existence”.

Debilitated bodies become the everyday reminders of the immense capacity of the occupying force, even in its absence. The occupier is, hence, always present. This is an effective tool for the occupying state to puncture resistance, suppress dissent, and eventually break the will of the people.

The state justifies its actions by using terms such as “mobs”, “thugs”, and “rioters” to describe those protesting occupation. These terms criminalise resistance and paint unarmed protesters as violent, lawless, and a public nuisance.

Cultural Studies theorist Stuart Hall has described how “clearly political containment of popular protest (has historically been) effected under the ambiguous cover of ‘public order’ and its sanctions”. He points to the changing definition of “crime” as imposed by governing classes on different groups of people for the purpose of legal restraint and political control.

In occupations, the indigenous always appear on the wrong side of the law. They are conceptualised as an undifferentiated mass, perpetually in a state of illegality. The state can, thus, invent weapons that are indiscriminate and undiscerning.

As thousands of pellets descend upon the unarmed bodies of Kashmiris and Palestinians, the henchmen of the colonial regime – the soldiers and politicians – maintain an air of impunity by appearing as a benevolent, well-meaning force that is simply restoring peace.

How ironic since there is nothing humane or benevolent about the iron pellets that pierced the eyes and face of 14-year-old Insha Mushtaq last year; or the rubber bullet that fractured the skull of 14-year-old Mohammed Tamimi last month.

In the words of Kashmiri poet Muhammad Nadeem:

“…these coal black eyes that were like suns,
with rays of happy dreams that leaped from each lash
are now bottomless black wells…”

The use of pellet guns in India and rubber bullets in Israel must be banned, and militarisation and occupation must end.

We must demonstrate transnational solidarity against state violence that masquerades as non-lethal and humane. In addition to tallying the dead, we need to also hold these forces accountable for the injured, the blind, the disabled, the arrested, the raped and the disappeared.

And we have to remain vigilant. Occupying forces are ever so agile and nimble, adapting to human rights criticisms and inventing new forms of population control, policing and torture. India, for instance, is not only considering rubber bullets but also experimenting with chilli pepper-filled ammunition, which contains irritants stronger than those in pepper spray – all in the name of being more humane!

Indeed, Kashmiris and Palestinians are brought together by their occupiers’ shared interest in slow deaths. That, perhaps, is the slyest form of extermination.

This post originally appeared here.

Shenila Khoja-Moolji

Shenila Khoja-Moolji

The writer is a scholar of gender, youth, and international development. She tweets @SKhojaMoolji (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • nadeem Usmani

    Well conceived article, Shenila! Thanks for describing the plight of Kashmiris and Palestinian people.Recommend

  • Sharath Chandra

    The injuries suffered by security personnel by stone pelting is conveniently over looked by the author, whose analysis lacks credibility due to apparent bias.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    Will Nuclear armed India give up on Kashmir because few people throw stones or fire AK47s? Can this happen?
    In this senseless conflict only naive fools are getting hurt. The masterminds are sitting comfortably in Dubai and London. Their own children are safe in European and US cities. They live cushy life in some of the best cities in the world. Only uneducated and gullible people are getting hurt. And India has tight control over Kashmir as she always had. No change even after 70 years of senseless conflict. And I do not see any change in the next 100 year either.Recommend

  • sullu2004

    If these are a few people, let us ask the people of Kashmir what they want. Recommend

  • K

    yaah wave ISIS flags, Show banner that only Muslims can live in Kashmir, Give food shelter to terrorist (freedom fighters from their point of view or strategic asset whatever) and when Indian paramilitary try to hunt them down start stone pelting Good, sow what you are expecting from Indian forces? Turkish delight or Bengali Rasogulla? My advise is to such people is leave my ancestral land of kashmir & please spare my taxes which these people are enjoying in healthcare, electricity subsidy.Recommend

  • David Shivcalntonton

    Could nuclear power USSR stop itself from being dismantled into 7 states? India cannot stop Kashmiris, Sikh, Nagalandis, Assamis, Maos from getting independence. History is evident that no superpower or any other country could stop countries and people from getting indolence when the cause was right. We will see India dismantled into several states very soon inshaAllah. Its a fight between right and wrong and right always win, unfortunately India and Israel’s stance is wrong in Kashmir, Palestine, Khalistan, Assam, NagalandRecommend

  • Kolsat

    If Kashmiris are concerned about this then ask them to not be violent in their protests. Remeber it takes two to tango.Recommend

  • addo

    Pakistan ranked 74 in Democracy Index today, one of the worst human rights countries in the world, criticizing free secular democracies for Human Rights…Recommend

  • Sumit Sehgal

    Behave like civilized human beings or get punished. This is how a democratic nation works.Recommend

  • Sane

    Injuries by stone pelting……injuries by guns?!!! You make us laugh.Recommend

  • Sane

    Two to tango; 1st is stone pelting and 2nd is gun fire. Bare handed Muslim population of Kashmir is using stones & pebbles against bullets. It is taking two to tango. Have some sense.Recommend

  • Sane

    Nuclear armed India with 800,000 armed soldiers deployed in Kashmir is fighting with stone throwing population of Kashmir since 70 years. Yes, India has to give up Indian occupied Kashmir. Kashmir is destined to LIBERATE, a FREE KASHMIR.Recommend

  • waleed nasir

    why India forces kashmiris to protest.Protest is the right of kashmiris and in response they will through stones not flowers.Recommend

  • Parvez

    For credibility sake if you had quoted figures of ‘ injuries from stone pelting ‘ it would have added substance to your comment.Recommend

  • wb

    So, at least you agree that India is a superpower!!! That’s the only half truth in your comment. The rest are just wishful thinking.Recommend

  • Sane sid

    Muslim population of Kashmir…….. Dont you have muslim population in your country. I think better worry for them rather than worrying for Palestine and other regions. The economy of your country is in sorry state…… there can be economic collapse anytime within a few months and all you guys are worried about is welfare of Muslims elsewhere????? Height of fooling your own people with rhetoric……Recommend

  • Simla

    What are you saying, is it not true that some Kashmiris don’t throw rocks and stones at the security forces or stone pelting does not cause any injuries to the receiving person.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Are you saying that injuries to military and para military with proper helmets, shields and protective clothing by stone pelting is more severe or even as severe as injuries from pellet gun shooting or the use of rubber bullets on people with no protection ? …..if so, quote figures to substantiate this.
    The author has made her case …. and its quite believable.Recommend

  • Patwari

    Well, see, er, there is this video, too, of a 5 year old Kashmiri boy beating the daylights out of a fully armored, helmeted, booted [and
    in bullet proof vest]… Indian Army jawan, with his little plastic chappal [shoe]. Poor poor man. How terrible.
    Oh! Forgot! Then there is this photograph of a 70 year old grandmother chasing this platoon of soldiers with her dangerous frying pan…
    Kashmiri grandmothers, grandfathers, girls, little boys armed with pebbles, stones, cow dung patties [used as cooking fuel in Kashmir] become very very dangerous to Indian Army brigades, currently occupying Bharati Kashmir. Indeed.
    Not fair to the poor soldiers, armed only with Kalashnikovs and blinding pellet guns….Recommend

  • Sane

    You stop worrying about Pakistan. Take care of mass scale human right violations on Muslims and minorities in India. Get some treatment to do away with hate Pakistan & Muslims syndrome.Recommend

  • Yogi Berra

    They want development and peace but across Asia and Europe there is a brand of extremism propagated where they brainwash Muslims into believing that they cannot live peacefully with Non Muslims. They promote violence and criminal acts. This menace is growing in the last 30-40 years. The right thinking Muslims must shun violence and expose the extremists. Muslims every where must embrace secularism, democracy and non violence.Recommend

  • gp65

    Try stone pelting at police force in US, Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia. You will be shot dead and there will be no sympathy. Except for US, no media will report it either.Recommend

  • Sane

    Stone pelting is in self defense against bullet shots and other brutal acts of Indian army against bare handed and innocent Kashmiris. Kashmiris are fighting for freedom and India must quit from occupied Kashmir. Given UN charter gives them right to fight for freedom.Recommend

  • Sane

    A democratic nation gives freedom to struggling natios. What democracy are you talking about? You cannot stop Kashmir from liberating.Recommend

  • Sane

    Subject is Indian occupied Kashmir, not Pakistan.Recommend

  • Sane

    Ok; if this makes you happy to assume India as ‘super power’, be in your bubble. But, this super power has 80% hungry and those who don’t have proper clothes to cover them. A very large population lives in slums. Roads and streets are flooded with beggars. A country where toilet is an issue and majority of the population do not have toilets. There are more than 20 freedom struggles in India. A country which is known for the rape capital of the world. A country where the killing of Muslims and minorities is a daily routine. Mr. Citizen of super power, be happy.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    If someone attacks me with stone and I have a gun to protect ( pellet gun mind it) myself, I would use the gun and not look for a stone. By the way, this is STONE and not a pebble. If you get hit with that kind of stone, you would definitely meet your maker in no time.Recommend

  • Kulbhushan Yadav

    Indian army is using pellet gun on the people throwing stones at them. It is in self defense. Recommend