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Punjab’s ‘anonymity model’ could help safeguard policemen’s kin in J-K

Like in the Khalistan movement in Punjab through the eighties and nineties, the militants’ objective in Kashmir is to demoralise the state police. The Punjab administration had countered that threat by moving officers and men out of their home districts without formal transfer orders.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2018 07:42 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Punjab model,Kashmir,Police
As anonymity was the key to foiling the militants’ game plan, the redeployed policemen functioned without uniforms in postings away from home. (Picture for representation)

The abduction and subsequent release of policemen’s kin in South Kashmir marks a dangerous turn in militancy in Jammu and Kashmir for which there’s a historical parallel in neighbouring Punjab but not in the troubled Valley.

Like in the Khalistan movement in Punjab through the eighties and nineties, the militants’ objective in Kashmir is to demoralise the state police. The Punjab administration had countered that threat by moving officers and men out of their home districts without formal transfer orders.

As anonymity was the key to foiling the militants’ game plan, the redeployed policemen functioned without uniforms in postings away from home.

The Khalistani groups were in their pursuit essentially to block “actionable intelligence” they had started getting from disaffected families that helped and harboured militants under threat— or out of commitment.

The ‘anonymity model’ was discussed in Srinagar’s upper administrative echelons after the promulgation of governor’s rule in Jammu and Kashmir. The proposal driven by the Punjab experience aimed to secure policemen and thereby the contacts they had developed in recent months to gather information from local people.

If posted in their home districts, policemen could be sitting ducks, return as they do to their families after work. That puts their kin in danger unlike the army jawans who live in army stations and cantonments. It makes eminent sense therefore to segregate their kin from their area of work.

But for some reasons, one among them probably being the change of guard in the Raj Bhawan, the model remained on the discussion table. “Its utility remains….Police in J&K is performing as well as its Punjab counterpart was in the 1980s,” remarked an official privy to the administration’s thinking before Satpal Malik took over as Governor from NN Vohra.

The J&K police is a 1.30 lakh strong force that includes 27,000 special police officers. Of these, nearly 20,000 are from South Kashmir from where family members of policemen have been abducted. “When the militants target them, they do so to deny the army troops the local intelligence that only the police can gather,” explained Lt. Gen. (retd) Ata Hasnain, former GoC of the Srinagar-based XV Corps.

In his view, the Jammu and Kashmir police fought back with great resilience in 2016 when the houses of nearly 50 of them were burnt in the aftermath of Burhan Wani’s killing in an encounter. Their job, he said, entailed its own hardships and challenges. The army troops move in platoons of 20 to 21; policemen at times have to operate alone with little logistics at their disposal.

From the militants’ standpoint, it makes perfect sense to demoralize the police to dry up their channels of ground-level information when protests are at their peak against attempts to have Article 35 (a) ---that confers special rights on State subjects --- abrogated through the judicial route. The administration has, in the words of a local politician, “bought time, not peace” by getting the proceedings deferred in the Supreme Court.

The militancy’s challenge will only grow in the run-up to the impending panchayat polls, he worried. The administration must do all that’s needed to keep the police’s morale high.

First Published: Sep 01, 2018 07:13 IST