As turmoil mounts in Valley, policemen at a crossroads

With 16 deaths reported in the first six months, the highest number of casualties in the last two decades, 2017 has turned a bloody year for Jammu & Kashmir Police

Updated - December 03, 2021 04:55 pm IST

Published - June 22, 2017 10:06 pm IST - Srinagar

Feeling the heat: With protests in Kashmir Valley increasing, security personnel, including the State Police, now face heavier casualties.

Feeling the heat: With protests in Kashmir Valley increasing, security personnel, including the State Police, now face heavier casualties.

It’s not just the Army or the paramilitary forces who are feeling the heat in Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir police have now found themselves in the middle of the Kashmir imbroglio.

The killing of six policemen in south Kashmir’s Achabal on June 16 is the latest in a series of attacks on the State Police.

“I was praying that the news coming at Iftar time should be wrong. I ate dates to break the fast and nothing thereafter. All policemen went into mourning. Never before has the J&K police saw themselves at the middle of Kashmir conflict the way they are today,” a Superintendent of Police-level officer told The Hindu .

The last Friday’s attack spurred the death toll of policemen to 16 in the first six months this year, highest in the past two decades. Last year, 13 policemen were killed.

In a similar attack, seven persons, including five policemen, were killed on May 1 when a bank van was attacked. The video of civilians shifting dying policemen to hospital evoked condemnation online from the Valley-based netizens against the militant strategy.

“This was not true in the 1990s. People then decided not to take stand when militants were killing political activists. There is pressure within the society on militants this time,” said another police officer.

The reason for growing militant attacks on the local police could be the successful operations by the police’s special operations group and a small counter-insurgency cell, seated in Srinagar.

Even Director General of Police S.P. Vaid described the recent incident as a “revenge attack by Lashkar-e-Taiba” for police actions.

Police role

The Army takes a lead in most operations against militants. Still the police form second ring as the Army sets up attack teams to fight holed up militants.

However, former police officers fear that anti-militancy operations may take a toll on community policing. “In a conflict situation, normal policing becomes a casualty. I wish the local police would be a ‘service’ rather than a ‘force’ in J&K,” said a former senior superintendent.

There is division within the police on what kind of role they should assume, given their local roots.

“The narrative in Kashmir is anti-police. Pakistan is also playing a role to fan sentiments against police . It is the first time that militants raided houses of police officers. It has never happened before,” said a former J&K police officer.

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