Monday, July 25, 2011

Norway killngs and the Indian connection

The killings in Norway have an Indian connection.

Anders Behring Breivik, who exploded a bomb in Oslo and later sprayed bullets for more than one and a half hour on a Labour Party youth camp, killing 76 people in all, used “Dum-dum” bullets to do the job. These type of bullets were first manufactured at the Dum Dum Arsenal, near Kolkata, in India by the British in the late 1890s. The bullets, also called ‘expandable’ bullets, are designed to expand inside the body of the target after they hit, thus causing a wound larger than the diameter of the bullet itself. They thus cause more blood loss and damage than would an ordinary bullet, which hits the target from one side and comes out from the other. Certain types of Dum-dum bullets fragment inside the body of the target, making the wound especially painful, difficult to treat and more lethal.

The bullets manufactured by the British were so deadly that in 1898, the German Government lodged a protest against the use of Dum-dum bullets, claiming the bullets caused wounds that were “excessive and inhumane”. The British defended the use of the bullets against what they called “fanatical barbarians” (“freedom fighters”, probably, for us) who would not be deterred by ordinary bullets, but the Hague Convention in 1899 accepted the German claim and banned the use of Dum-dum bullets in war. The ban continues till today.

However, Dum-dum bullets themselves are not banned from use, The Hague Convention only covers war, and hence use of the Dum-dum bullets for other “permitted” purposes, such as by the police, for hunting (where permitted), self-defence or in sports is allowed. Breivik was able to legally acquire the bullets.

With the Norway incident, the demand for a complete ban on manufacture and sale of Dum-dum bullets may revive. Atleast some lives would have been saved had Breivik not been using Dum-dum bullets.

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