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A ‘former constable’ explains Kashmiri cops’ predicament in viral video

Gowhar Geelani | Updated on: 8 September 2017, 11:38 IST
(Arya Sharma)

Amid a 27-year-long separatist movement in Kashmir, the Jammu and Kashmir Police force now finds itself at a crossroads it has never reached before.

On the one hand, more and more police personnel are being targeted by Kashmir’s new-age militants, and, on the other hand, a few policemen are either quitting job or joining the ranks of the armed rebels.

The current year (2017) has been the bloodiest for Jammu and Kashmir police in last five years.

The department has lost at least 24 of its personnel, including two officers, in various attacks by the armed rebel groups operating in the Kashmir Valley. In 2013, at least 19 police personnel were killed in militancy related violence.

In June this year, a group of militants killed six police personnel, including a station house officer, in a surprise attack in South Kashmir’s Achabal in Anantnag district.

In a latest strike planned by Lashkar militants on the eve of Eid-ul-Azha, a police bus was ambushed at Panthachowk on the outskirts of Srinagar. One policeman was killed while five others sustained bullet injuries.

Those killed from January until the first week of September included a station house officer and several assistant sub-inspectors.

According to a moderate estimate, the J&K police have lost more than 3000 personnel while fighting militancy since 1989.

Latest unpredictable attacks on police have stirred a debate in the Kashmir Valley, as some policemen are talking about their dilemmas openly.

A police constable, who identifies himself as Rayees, explains his predicament as a cop in a sensitive place like Jammu and Kashmir.

In his six minute 12 second-long video message, Rayees while announcing his resignation from the police department says he feels compelled to do so to address the “call of my conscience”. He does not want his conscience to ask him a question “whether I am on the right or wrong path,” he argues.

It is indeed a Catch-22 situation for him.

After serving the police department for last seven years, Rayees now hopes to end his dilemma by calling it quits.

In his well-articulated message in both Urdu and English, the former cop says that he can’t see his people (Kashmiris) being killed, maimed, blinded, arrested and jailed any longer.

“I had joined the police department as a constable with a sole aim of serving civilians and taking up the responsibilities of my family. I thought it was my Jihad, which means controlling and fighting the unwanted desires and to fight for the mankind,” he says, adding, “the situation in Kashmir has worsened now.”

Yahan par ek na thamne wala toofan barpa huwa hai, (An unstoppable storm has emerged here [Kashmir]),” he adds.

The video has gone viral and police is verifying its authenticity. The audio seems a little out of sync.

He also says that an average Kashmiris is only demanding “apna haq” (his right).

Har roz kashmiri guzar rahe hain, aankhoun ki roshni se mehroom horahe hain, Kashmiri apna haq maang raha hai (rai shumari), (A Kashmiri is dying on a daily basis, losing his or her eyesight (because of pellets) and a Kashmiri is demanding his right, plebiscite),” he says.

Talking about the genesis of the Kashmir conflict, the former cop explains how over 500 princely states were given an option by the British after the partition in 1947 to join either of the two dominions — Pakistan or India. He says that the Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir took a decision to join Indian dominion against the wishes of the majority (Muslims) in Kashmir while the then Muslim ruler in Junagarh opted for Pakistan against the aspirations of the majority (Hindus). He says that people of Junagarh were then given their right to vote in a referendum, but this option was not given to the people of Kashmir.

This absence of referendum in Kashmir, he thinks, is the root cause of the Kashmir dispute.

Yahan Pakistani bhi mar raha hai, Hindustani bhi mar raha hai, magar sab se zyada Kashmiri suffer kar raha hai (Pakistanis are dying here, Indians are dying here, but a Kashmiri suffers the most,” he says.

“I have no love for Pakistan. I nurse no grudge against India. I love my Kashmir,” he says, adding that “I am not in a position to resolve the Kashmir dispute, but I can address the call of my conscience at least”.

In an emotional tone, Rayees says he can’t see bloodshed in Kashmir as a policeman, and therefore would toil hard, even work as a labourer, to feed his family.

“I will continue my struggle by working hard to fulfill the basic necessities of my family. I belong to a poor family. I will work as a labourer but can’t let my conscience die,” he concludes.

What has gone wrong in the police department?

On 28 August afternoon, suspected armed rebels shot at Jammu and Kashmir Police’s assistant sub-inspector (ASI) Abdul Rashid Pir near Lal Chowk in volatile south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

A picture of Pir’s daughter Zohra weeping has since gone viral, prompting former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir to send out a tweet: “Zohra,I can’t put u 2 sleep wid a lullaby but I’ll help u 2 wake up 2 live ur dreams. Will support ur education 4 lifetime #daughterofIndia.”

Gambhir’s selective outrage was questioned, as many Kashmiris say that the India cricketer did not support education of any victim of state violence thus far.

A Kashmiri named Shams responded to Gambhir’s tweet: “Gauti, asking you to support for a lifetime a few kids #blinded permanently by Indian army in #Kashmir. Will you?”

Jammu and Kashmir police is fast losing its image as pro-people force primarily for the reason that they participate in anti-militancy operations.

“Generally, Jammu and Kashmir Police is considered to be at the forefront in the fight against militancy. It is believed that J&K Police’s human intelligence grid is robust and its expertise in cyber technology comes in handy during counter-insurgency operations,” says a top police officer while requesting anonymity.

Another top source in police’s counter insurgency cell adds that “the new-age of militancy in Jammu & Kashmir enjoys social sanctity, which is evident by the massive participation of people in the funerals of slain militants”.

Indeed, it is a cause of concern for Jammu and Kashmir police department on two counts; one, being at the receiving end during surprise attacks by the armed rebels; two, a few of their own either quitting job or deserting the department to join the ranks of the rebels.

In March 2015, Nasir Pandith, a guard at the residence of minister Altaf Bukhari decamped with his service rifle to join Burhan Wani, the then Hizb commander in South Kashmir. Soon after, pictures surfaced online of a Kalashnikov-wielding Pandith standing alongside Burhan Wani.

Prior to that, on 7 February 2015, government forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district had killed Syed Mufeed Bashir, a former Special Police Officer- turned- militant. He had escaped from Police Lines Pulwama with his service weapon just days after joining as an SPO.

Syed Javid Mujtaba Gilani, the then Inspector general of Jammu and Kashmir Police had described this as “a really worrisome trend”.

It is seems that some J&K police personnel are asking the question: whose war are we fighting?

First published: 8 September 2017, 11:38 IST
 
Gowhar Geelani

Gowhar Geelani is a journalist, commentator and political analyst from Srinagar. He was formerly with Deutsche Welle, Germany.

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