A top counter-insurgency police officer in Kashmir has been arrested for allegedly running a militant cell and is suspected of encouraging men to join rebel groups and then turning them in or killing them for personal gain, police said Wednesday.
Sub-inspector Shiv Kumar and his bodyguard were arrested Tuesday for running a militant cell involved in at least one recent grenade attack on a police station in the disputed Himalayan region, said police officer Ashkoor Wani.
Their alleged link with the grenade attack was discovered last month after the arrest of five men accused of launching the attack on the police station in April, Wani said. He said the five men named Kumar as the mastermind of the attack.
Another police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the two are now the focus of a wider investigation into charges that they convinced local men to become insurgents in the violence-wracked region and then turned them in or killed them to receive rewards and promotions.
Kumar is credited with killing at least 68 militants over the course of 15 years in Kashmir. He has been awarded India's highest gallantry honour in the past.
"He would motivate young men to join militancy through his vast spy network and then get them arrested or even killed to win rewards and promotions," the second officer said.
The arrests have rattled Indian authorities who administer and police the tense region against insurgents who are fighting for independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan.
"It's shocking news for all of us. He was so effective in fighting against militants," said another officer, who has worked with Kumar and also spoke on customary condition of anonymity.
Kumar joined counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir as a "special police officer," part of a semi-official grouping run on special funding from ministry of home affairs.
He soon became a big name in the region's efforts to control the decades-long separatist insurgency and was rewarded with promotions on several occasions.
Since 1989, the violent insurgency and the ensuing crackdown by Indian forces have killed an estimated 68,000 people in Kashmir. Although the armed rebellion has been largely suppressed, the public resentment against Indian rule remains deep and the resistance is now principally expressed through street protests.