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Insurgency, that favourite alibi

india Updated: Jul 16, 2009 00:16 IST
Insurgency

I am curious: when was the last thief caught in Kashmir?

The National Crime Records Bureau’s last available report for the country, from 2007, shows no alarming levels of crime in Jammu & Kashmir. On most counts of the states with the largest incidence of crime, it is listed among “others”.

But does everyday policing get attention in J&K? Do weekly crime meetings take place?

In a country that has the largest footprint of insurgency among all across major nations of the world, militancy-affected regions are becoming a signpost of a colossal collapse of governance.

“In any insurgency situation, the bureaucracy in India withdraws into a cocoon,” said Prakash Singh, who has dealt with insurgency in several top positions in police and the paramilitary. “They abdicate their functions and tell the security forces — ‘this is your battle’.”

In Kashmir, the central government pumps hundreds of taxpayer crores on the army and the paramilitary every year, but has been unable to adequately help the police force — the frontline of anti-militant operations — increase its numbers or capabilities.

So over the years, policing became a casualty in the state where the 79,000-strong force is at the forefront of anti-militant operations.

When Kashmiri commerce student Asrar Ahmad left home on his motorcycle for his gym on July 3 and went missing. The crime had been reported — but it was a missing persons case that wasn’t dealt with adequately, and five days later, the youth was found dead — allegedly killed over a love affair.

If that is true, a straightforward case of abduction turned into a killing and spiralling anti-India protests because some officer at a Srinagar police station did not investigate why the youth went missing.

It is yet another tragic milestone for a police force that virtually collapsed in the years after militancy raged in 1988, and found its feet only by the mid-1990s — but seemingly had little time to deal with anything other than militants.

“Jammu and Kashmir Police have to rise to the occasion and become more professional,” Singh said. “That’s what helped in Punjab. That is what will help here.”