Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers posted in Jammu and Kashmir said on Friday the abuse and assault their colleagues faced in central Budgam district at the hands of local men is the “unfortunate reality” in the volatile state.
A video clip that showed a mob in Kralpora area of the Chadoora assembly segment jeering and kicking CRPF personnel, who returning from a polling station of the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency that went to the bypoll amid widespread protests and violence on April 9, has gone viral.
Jammu and Kashmir police registered an FIR on Thursday on a complaint filed by the CRPF and the government has launched a probe.
It’s a Friday afternoon and the troopers posted in the vicinity of the mosque are on high alert – at any point of time a large crowd of stone-pelters can come out of the labyrinth of narrow alleys and charge at them.
“Our job, as you can see, is very difficult here in Kashmir. The mobs charge at us, we try to restrain as much as possible and as a last resort we use pellets or bullets,” a CRPF soldier, a native of Madhya Pradesh and posted in the old part of Srinagar, said.
“When we retaliate, say use pellets, we are criticised by sections of society. But people do not understand how we are targeted by stone-pelters,” he added.
He does not want his name published as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
“The personnel in the video showed extreme patience and restraint in the face of insults and abuses. Goli chala dete toh kya hota aap samajh sakte hain (You can very well understand what would have happened if the jawans had opened fire in that situation),” a CRPF soldier from Uttar Pradesh, standing guard near old Srinagar’s grand Jamia Masjid, said.
The walls and shop shutters next him are dotted with anti-India graffiti such as “Go India go back” and “India your game is over”.
The state police chief SP Vaid on Friday lauded the restraint and patience shown by the CRPF personnel.
Another soldier from Bihar, on duty in a Srinagar street, said if he goes alone in his uniform into a sensitive locality in the old city area, he too can be attacked, heckled and jeered at.
“What the jawans in the video face is the unfortunate reality here. In the complex geopolitics, we paramilitary personnel are stuck in between.”
A senior officer of the force, stationed in Srinagar, also said CRPF soldiers facing stone-pelters during protests is a routine affair but the manhandling happened because they were outnumbered in the remote area of Budgam district.
“Generally, whenever jawans are posted it’s with sufficient strength and no one dares any sort of heckling or jeering. But in this case, due to the heavy requirements of election duty, at this location jawans were outnumbered by the mob,” he explained.