Of Bullets and choices

Rubber is Better?

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Twelve years after police bullets killed 10 Dalit protesters in Mumbai, the State DGP is all set to brush off dust from a pending file and introduce plastic and rubber bullets. The decision comes on the heels of the Bombay High Court sentencing Manohar Kadam, a sub-inspector who headed the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) platoon, to life imprisonment for firing on the Dalit protesters. Elaborating on the proposed introduction, SS Wirk, DGP, says: “We can’t treat our people like terrorists. We need effective ways to tackle the mob without taking lives.” If the proposal is cleared by the state cabinet, the plastic and rubber bullets will be imported. Wirk could be wrong, though. The Haryana Police stopped using rubber bullets in 2008 following the death of a schoolteacher shot during a clash in Rohtak. Four rubber bullets were recovered from the victim’s abdomen. If the bullets are fired from a distance of at least 150 metres, they are harmless, but if they are shot from less than this distance they can be fatal, says a police officer. In 1997, a rubber bullet cracked open the skull of a 15-year old Palestinian protester. These bullets are rubber-coated projectiles that can be fired from standard firearms or dedicated riot guns. Made from wax, wood and plastic, they are fired from special adapters attached to the muzzle of a rifle and propelled by a blank cartridge.