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CM’s militarised recipe of disaster
Raising more battalions of police, increasing SPOs to replace central forces is an ill-conceived policy
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Chief minister Omar Abdullah’s demand for raising 5 IR (law and order) battalions and creation of 5,000 extra posts of SPOs for Jammu and Kashmir bodes ill for Jammu and Kashmir and signals a new era in the militarization of the state, that is being sought to be controlled not through good governance but with the might of the gun, one replacing the other. The demand has been made in lieu of CRPF battalions to be withdrawn in the state and would hardly qualify as a step towards the much promised demilitarization. Infact, it is giant leap towards converting Jammu and Kashmir into a police state, which is fraught with perils. Already, there is a disproportionate presence of troops in the state with excessive presence of army and other para-militaries operating in the civilian areas adding to the vulnerability of the lives of the people. Wednesday’s incident of a mysterious grenade explosion in Thanamandi demonstrates this beyond a shadow of doubt. Whether it was a case of mistaken identity, as the initial allegations from the village suggested that army personnel mistook two children playing in the bushes for militants and threw a grenade, or of an accidental death due to an unattended grenade, it reveals that peoples proximity to barricaded security forces camps with presence of excessive arms and ammunition is too dangerous for the civilian population, even if the forces can manage to keep their record of human rights abuse at the lowest ever. The need to decongest civilian areas of presence of security forces has been voiced by the chief minister himself on several occasions. But it would be a folly to expect that civilian spaces can be demilitarised by sending back a few battalions of the existing forces and replacing them with new ones, much less the irregular forces that have a notorious track record of atrocities and lawlessness in this state.

Human rights violations and patterns of impunity go beyond the armed forces and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Even if extra constitutional laws like AFSPA are withdrawn and repealed, the impunity that is exercised simply through brazen violation of norms and abject denial of justice to save the skin of policemen will not end. Without introducing a principled system of making men in authority accountable for their crimes, the shocking ways of offering amnesty to them is likely to continue. In the last fifteen years, with police getting increasingly involved in counter insurgency operations, and many of the cops having been given a free hand, unaccountable funds and without any element of accountability, their involvement in crimes of both corruption and crimes against humanity has only gone up. With complete political and official protection they have become a law unto themselves. Majority of the cases in which accusing fingers have been pointed out at policemen follow a familiar pattern of denying justice and obfuscating truth through media statements, even co-opting a section of media to manufacture lies, by tampering evidence, by failing to record evidence and much needed details, by simply refusing to lodge a first information report, and finally by dragging feet over the investigations. There could be nothing more glaring an example as that of the un-investigated 130 deaths of 2010 summer at the hands of mostly policemen, even as the state government admitted about a year ago on the floor of the state legislative assembly that over 100 of those who died were innocent. Still, no action has been taken against the errant cops. The only few cases in which FIRs have been lodged, it has been done so only through court intervention. Proposing an increase in more battalions of IRP is absurd. Already the four fold increase in the size of Jammu and Kashmir Police has caused more harm than solved any issue.

As for the demand of 5000 more Special Police Officers (SPOs), it is not only a violation of the spirit of a Supreme Court verdict but also a potent recipe for disaster. In a landmark judgement on Chattisgarh’s Salwa Judum, equivalent to Village Defence Committees of J&K, and SPOs, the supreme court in 2011 laid down that the irregular combatants, unlike legally authorised forces in uniform, are beyond the pale of discipline and accountability imposed upon duly authorised regular forces of the state and that untrained recruits are made to deal with situations requiring fully trained regular armed personnel. It is impossible to induce an element of accountability in an irregular force that is recruited as an ad hoc wing of the police force and paid a paltry monthly salary of Rs 3000, which the chief minister is now seeking to be enhanced to Rs 5000. Besides, as the supreme court had then observed, it invokes the ugly and dehumanising culture of arming a group of citizens and pitting them up against their own people. The history and actions of the SPOs in this state are no different from that of Chattisgarh. Omar Abdullah’s earlier assertion in response to the apex court’s verdict that SPOs of Jammu and Kashmir are part of the regular police force is bereft of any logic and substance. The origin of SPOs lies in the creation of abominable Ikhwanis (surrendered militants). Converted militants were provided official protection, armed and let loose upon their own people. Some of the worst known atrocities have been committed by this tribe of notorious elements. Their obnoxious presence within the system has fouled the atmosphere. Already 22,000 SPOs are operating across the length and breadth of this state and many of them have been accused of committing heinous crimes or of deserting the force, double crossing and joining or re-joining the ranks of militants groups. Rather than doubling up their numbers it is better to disband the existing ones
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News Updated at : Friday, February 1, 2013
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