J-K cop lynching: Should police complement the Army or serve the people?
As violence spirals once again in the region and Kashmir’s police find themselves in the crosshairs of militants and blood-thirsty mobs. The government must decide what it wants their role to be
The death of deputy superintendent Mohammed Ayub Pandith at the hands of a lynch mob highlights the dangers to the police in Kashmir today, whether from gun-wielding militants or locals disgruntled with the Indian State. It also serves to remind us that more police personnel of Jammu and Kashmir have lost their lives in the defence of the country than any other state police force since the outbreak of the insurgency almost three decades ago. Till June this year, at least 16 Jammu and Kashmir policemen and women have been killed, the highest for that period in 20 years.
For most part of the insurgency in Kashmir, the Army and other central paramilitary forces have been seen as representing the repressive arm of the State: The Army at the forefront of the fight against the militants and the likes of the CRPF dealing with protesters on the streets demanding ‘Azaadi’. By contrast, the police was spared much of the public hatred, given the local roots of the men and women who served it.
But that changed over the past year or so as the state’s 80,000-odd police force received a wider role in anti-insurgency strategies, especially with the useful intelligence from its small special operations group that proved invaluable for the government forces. It also meant the police no longer enjoyed the cover of nativist sentiment. For the first time, police officers’ homes were raided, their families threatened and revenge attacks carried out against them. Six policemen were killed in south Kashmir on June 16, some had their faces disfigured. No politician went to their funerals, let alone extol their valour and dedication or hail the force’s plural and syncretic character.
In the past three decades, more than 1,600 police personnel have sacrificed their lives in Jammu and Kashmir. As violence spirals once again in the region and Kashmir’s police find themselves in the crosshairs of militants and bloodthirsty mobs, the government must decide what it wants their role to be: A force multiplier to complement the efforts of the security and military machinery or a service dedicated to the betterment of the community. At the best of times policing comes under the pulls and pressures of politicians. In armed conflicts such manipulation and misuse can only further demoralise and imperil Kashmir’s police force.