Are we being unfair to the J&K Police Force?

For the past one year or so, the important instruments of this (JKP) organization, like SM Sahai, present intelligence chief of the state and his colleagues like, Afad-Ul-Mujtaba, have been sidelined by the PDP lead government, writes Shafiq Mir

Though all sections of security forces, whether it is the Indian Army, Border Security Force or Central Reserve Police Force have made big sacrifices in combating insurgency and terrorism in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in the past 25 years, but the role and contribution of Jammu and Kashmir police (JKP) has always been at the top in my considered view.

I have a reason to rate them highly, because, in comparison to their fellow organizations, like Army, BSF or CRPF, the entire Jammu and Kashmir Police force have had their everything at stake and at risk being natives of the state. Despite all risks and threats to their families and relatives by the terrorists and their sympathizers, the men in Khaki from JKP have always fought well, leading from the front, in each operation, against terrorists, whether it was a joint operation or exclusively conducted by special operations group of Jammu and Kashmir Police.

History of J&K Police Force

In the good old times, the Police, as per Sir Walter Lawrence, constituted of 1000 village watchmen or “Chowkidars” who were known for their vigilant and inquisitorial abilities. They were mostly drawn from the “Doom” caste of the population known for their excellent detection and transmission of intelligence. 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.

It was in 1913 that the state requisitioned the service of an Imperial Police officer on deputation and appointed Mr Broadway as the first Inspector General of Police in June, 1913. He continued to be Police chief up to 1917 and was followed by other IP officers. Between 1913 and 1947, the State saw only one India Police chief of J&K State in Col Gandharab Singh, between 1927 to 1931: All others, 10 in all were IP Officers Prithinandan Singh was the first Indian Police chief who took over on 1st June 1946.

Since then the Police in J&K has undergone several re-organizations. The strength of Police in J&K in the year 1889-90 was just 1040, which further rose to 1570 in the year 1903 and forty years later, in 1943-44, the strength of J&K Police was 3179 its strength has gone to more than 83000 strong at present.

Security analysts keeping eye on Kashmir situation since the eruption of insurgency mention that it had been an uphill task for the central security forces to fight terrorism in the state of J&K until Jammu and Kashmir Police was not fully involved in the operations. The biggest problem for the central security forces has been the flow of information which they were not in position to gather. And information and intelligence became free flow only after JKP was fully involved in the process.

Jammu and Kashmir Police has had to deal with situation at multiple levels with lot of associated risks. On one hand, it is not only their personal life, which has been at risk, even their families and relatives are also at serious threat from the terrorists and their sympathizers. Central security forces comparatively are free of these risks being predominantly non-locals. On other hand, JKP being a local force and coming under the control of local state government, has had to face lot of pressures from the local politicians whenever they would say pick-up any person for questioning. Despite all these pulls and pressures from all sides and with very little or no incentives, Jammu and Kashmir Police has been doing a commendable job while dealing with the insurgency.

Once again, the militants have made their presence felt in the Kashmir valley, which is evident from the various deadly attacks carried by them on the security forces. The security analysts are of the opinion that the reason behind the reestablishment of militants and their sympathizers is the curtailment of role of Jammu and Kashmir Police force. As Jammu and Kashmir Police works directly under Jammu and Kashmir government, their role and red-lines are always drawn by the local politicians. And the politicians do this as per their political compulsions and requirements. The ruling politicians do not only create hurdles in the way of police, when they start any anti-terrorism operation in any of the areas, the politicians also use this force against their political opponents, in a particular area, which is proving fatal for the overall situation of the state.

There is another reason for the militancy taking over the lost ground again.

For the past one year or so, the important instruments of this organization, like SM Sahai, present intelligence chief of the state and his team colleagues like, Afad-Ul-Mujtaba, have been sidelined by the PDP lead government. The same mistake was done in 2009 by the Omar Abdullah government when on behest of his some political advisors, he had sidelined SM Sahai and sent him on central deputation. But in 2010, when the state had gone almost out of control, Omar Abdullah had no option but to call back Sahai and appoint him as the police chief. It was only after his appointment, schools in Kashmir re-opened after a gap of about three months.

In fact, these are some of the officers, who have given their entire service for restoring law and order and they know this finer details of this insurgency from its inception. They have all right experience to deal with the difficult situation at hand. I would also like to see both the state and the central government collaborate and formulate a new strategy and give Jammu and Kashmir Police more autonomous role to play in tackling terrorism.

Perhaps it is time for the central forces to take a back seat and Jammu and Kashmir Police force to play a more frontal role. It is also important for the government of the day to put right people at the right places, keeping aside personal prejudices, in the best interest of the state. Besides fighting terrorists, it is also important to bridge the gap between security forces and common people, which has been widening with each passing day, for the past one year or so.

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