Kashmir: A War Within!

Views from Srinagar

Mehboob Makhdoomi

NO geographical entity where people live can be imagined without Police. Given the human tendency to go awry, fall into discords, be driven to commit crimes and much more, having a police force is indispensable for any society. This is why they deserve respect from all the responsible citizens and makes Policing a very noble profession.
However, it is not so simple when it comes to Policing in the context of Jammu & Kashmir. The question of Kashmir is complex but it’s a double-whammy for the local police and their relationship with the local population. The Jammu & Kashmir police officials live amongst us; they are our relatives, fathers, sons, husbands, even daughters, sisters and wives.
Their political aspirations are no different from a commoner. The way his neighbor goes to work every day to earn a livelihood, he does the same. The conflict arises when the administration decides to pit them against their own people who have a political opinion, the state does not like. Although, Delhi has hundreds & thousands of the Central forces stationed in Kashmir, they want the J&K police to lead all the operations – be that the counterinsurgency ones or against the protests by the civilians – in the name of law & order, completely ignoring a pan-Kashmir political sentiment prevalent in Kashmir, cutting across all social barriers. This pits a Kashmiri in uniform against the Kashmiri without uniform.
Then they go a step ahead and incentivize their confrontation with their people- be that with the rebels or local protestors. Since everyone in the police force is not a saint, this brings out a beast in some who take undue advantage of their power. Not only do they lose their Kashmiriness, they lose their humanity. Every department has parameters of success but the state has made war against the people as the only key to success & promotions, for the police.
This assumes significance in view of the fact that this section of our society i.e those who are in the police force (about 86,000) are fast perceived to be as pariahs. The whole institution of Policing is becoming a euphemism for an enemy force, which is not a healthy sign. Not only do they suffer a social stigma but even their families, especially their children find it hard to defend police in schools & colleges when they see them enter their campuses and acting more loyal than the kings.
Recently, when 6 police personnel were killed including a SHO, there were counter threats by some local police officials on social media that they will wipe off these ‘terrorists’.
This is a sign of a civil war. Tears didn’t stop rolling down my face on seeing two little daughters of SHO Feroze but those who Police is fighting this war against also have families. The civilians which police kills, mercilessly at times and in fake encounters at other times, have little children too. It’s just that they aren’t fortunate enough to get the kind of media attention which police families do. So, this is not as simple a case as it apparently comes across as. Many times we see the police so passionately beating locals that the central forces come to their rescue.
Over the period of time, these Kashmiris in Uniform have gotten so used to being misused that they have really begun to see people as their enemy. The way they treat the agitators clearly shows no sign of their helplessness but they seem to be doing it with full vigor.
Before it gets out of hands, I would suggest that the administration stops treating J&K & its police the way it treats U.P & its police. That’s theory, not practical.
The reality is that if police officials who don’t live in camps but in their residences and go to the same mosques and marketplaces where others go, can not be used against the political belief of their people, taking undue advantage of their situation. New Delhi has a huge force on the ground which can be used to fight Bipin Rawat’s ‘dirty war’’, but the local police should be delinked with counterinsurgency operations and from being a frontline force against the people’s gatherings. Special situations need unique solutions.
If the Center or the State really cares about the local police, it should restrict them to do regular policing. It is also imperative that the way J&K Police seeks funds for those who die in the line of duty, they should collectively tell the administration that they cannot fire at their own people, simply because they assemble to amplify their political opinion. Police forces have taken such moral positions in the modern history.
There’s no way that people’s aspirations will change. So, there has to be a middle way by which we can at least stop killing each other.
A lot depends upon the J&K Police in this regard. As the website of JKP mentions, that it was in the year 1873 AD that formal Police force came into existence with one Police officer Known as Kotwal and 14 Thanedars for Srinagar City.
This nuclear force would control crime and take care of Law and order situations with help of Chowkidars and “Harkars”, who were paid by the population out of their annual agricultural produce on a voluntary basis.
Now, fast forward to 2017 and see how the same public – who voluntarily paid you for your services – who you are supposed to serve is fiercely against you. Something has gone wrong down the line. You need to be people-friendly rather than Delhi-friendly. Even the flag on your coffins is a mere politicization of your death, in the context of Kashmir.Those who know Kashmir’s political landscape will understand it. Ponder!

—Courtesy: Greater Kashmir
[Mehboob Makhdoomi is a Harvardian & an MBA from Pennsylvania University (IUP) -the United States with a Research degree from Cardiff University, United Kingdom]

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