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Posted at: Jun 21, 2017, 12:21 AM; last updated: Jun 21, 2017, 12:21 AM (IST)

The J&K police and its resilience

Lt Gen Syed Ata Hasnain (retd))
The Jammu and Kashmir police is doing an admirable job against all odds in the strife-torn Valley. Despite being at the focused receiving end of terror outfits and socially ostracised, the force refuses to buckle under pressure. It’s time to synergise and strengthen the state police.
AS photos of late Feroze Ahmad Dar, the SHO Achabal, flash on social media one deeply regrets his loss along with six of his colleagues, all bravehearts of the Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP). The six Kashmiri policemen have become the victims of the continued targeting of JKP personnel in the last few weeks. The tragedy is as deep as the untimely martyrdom of Lt Umar Fayaz, the young Army officer from Kulgam also killed by terrorists a few weeks ago. These killings have been a part of the ongoing focus of the terror groups to intimidate those in the service of India, to prevent the success of the campaign to allow maximum Kashmiris to aspire for government services. 

In recent times, I have been one of those who has perpetually extolled the virtues of the JKP.  I even wrote a laudatory ode to it in a defence journal, following that with the same in a journal of the National Police Academy. I have worked with this force through thick and thin. It is only when you have done so that you can take liberties with analysing its capability and offering a critique. The force continues to do yeoman service to the state and the nation. Its plural and syncretic character is an asset. I find all segments of faith within it, all professionally and socially in sync with each other. 

I never felt the need to ever know the faith of a JKP cadre who was working in coordination with the Army. I met hundreds of them during and at the end of various successful joint operations and hugged them all as I did my own soldiers. The public in rest of India rarely gets to know the degree of intense support the Army receives from the JKP. The Supreme Court of India has clearly laid down a set of do's and don'ts for the Army, while it functions under AFSPA 1990. One of these outlines the necessity of ensuring that every time the Army operates in any civilian area outside the LoC belt (where the Army operates alone), it will do so only with the presence of civil police (JKP). That rule has established an unbreakable bond which brings policemen and soldiers together to respond to situations in the quickest possible time.  

While the Army's units which are the frontline response troops receive intelligence from myriad sources, including its own, the most actionable intelligence is usually provided by the JKP through its various intelligence organisations. The combination of such intelligence with the Army's crack troops of the Rashtriya Rifles and the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the JKP usually sounds the death-knell of many a prominent terrorist leader. In 2011, this combination wiped out 19 such leaders across the length and breadth of the Valley and broke the back of Pakistan-supported terrorists

It is for reasons given above that one feels aggrieved to see the JKP at the focused receiving end of the terror groups who know that it is the force multiplier for the security forces in Kashmir. Adversaries in such proxy conflicts rarely like to remain outside the loop of such situations; they monitor, take feedback and alter strategy. Taking 2008-10 as a case in point. The agitational turbulence of 2016, post the killing of Burhan Wani, ensured that a prime part of the strategy was to lay the JKP low through social targeting. Families of the police were singled out in villages to break the homogeneity of JKP and dilute its motivation. For a moment in time I felt that the nexus of separatists and their masters had succeeded as 54 houses of policemen were initially burnt and families forced to apologise at mosques. This social ostracisation should have demoralised the force no end, broken its confidence and laid the foundation for a compromising attitude towards their responsibilities. I hope I am right in saying that some astute leadership and the resolve to cleanse Kashmir's killing fields off the presence of Pakistan-sponsored radicals and terror groups is ensuring that the JKP instead of wilting is actually emerging stronger. 

The adversaries are not going to wilt. They will re-evaluate options and select innovative ways of targeting the JKP, social media and other forms of media being one, while the harnessing of mosque power could be another. There are already messages across social media from Kashmiris warning policemen about how they are being used by Indian authorities. The cyber space must not be left uncontested even if it has to be done in an unstructured way. 

There are other issues which must be attended to forthwith. Compensation for the houses of policemen burnt to intimidate them must be released quickly and must be sufficient. Compensation to families of policemen martyred must be at par with casualties of central forces and paid with urgency and without reminder. Officers of the force on deputation and serving away must return as it happens in the Army. These officers relate best with the men and will provide the necessary leadership which is so much required under the current challenging circumstances. 

Lastly, JKP has to realise that its personnel are going to be baited. It must improve its relationship with the people through friendly measures and outreach, while ensuring that subversion of its ranks is guarded against. There will be fresh and manipulated accusations of misdemeanour too. Without a proactive and experienced leadership handling the threats is not going to be easy.

The writer, a former GOC of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, is now associated with the Vivekanand International  Foundation & the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

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