Ever since the start of cross-border insurgency, the J&K Police has been at the receiving end most of the times. Whether it was the initial stage when .303 rifles and bamboo sticks were outclassed by shower of bullets from Kalashnikov’s, barrage of flying stones hurled by angry Kashmiri protestors or continuous cries from Human Rights activists. J&K Police has been in the thick of action. It is an unforgiving job to be a policeman in India, more so in Kashmir. There is always a fear alienation from the society. A dagger always hangs over the security of their families. The amount of stress on police personnel is unimaginable. The fact that over 1800 have applied for pre-mature retirement in past two decades is a mere reflection of it.
When insurgency broke after the state election in 1987-88, J&K Police was able to take down 90% of those who had crossed border into Pakistan and come back with weapons. The youngsters coming back had little training with automated weapons and J&K Police had good intelligence, perhaps a bit relevance too. Inspite of that CRPF and BSF were called in to take charge and powers of police were diluted. Both the alien forces had little or no ground intelligence to work with, which made their task that much more difficult.
Till 1994 J&K Police was a forgotten commodity. Things started to move when Special Task Force was constituted. Special powers were given, which were thoroughly misused. Everyone during that period became officially or unofficially a part of task force. Militancy was declining but crime under the guise of it was rising exponentially with STF being offenders most of the time. This was the time perhaps when J&K Police lost its relevance for locals. As per Transparency Index figures, J&K is the second most corrupt state in India and levels of corruption in JK Police are no news
2008 saw another wave of uprising, this time with stones. Millions came out on roads against the transfer of land to Amarnath Trust. J&K Police was again caught offgaurd to tackle the protestors. Hundreds died as Amnesty cried for justice. 2010 stood witness to more than 110 martyrs, most of them due to incompetence of State Police to handle protests. Time is ripe for ringing in the changes in Police set up. Foot has to be set on pedestal and take some decisions.
The J&K Police still operates as per Police Act 1927 which is more or less on the same lines as colonial Police Act 1861. The J&K government has not followed the Honorable Supreme Court direction on Police reforms in turn filing an affidavit citing security situation as lame reason. Draconian laws like Public Safety Act and AFSPA are blatantly misused. The Delhi Government will place Draft Delhi Police Bill in the coming Budget session. Omar Abdullah and the top Police brass must think on the same lines.
There is need for better training and advanced weapons for the Police so that they can tackle the protest in a more non-lethal way. Human lives are too precious to be wasted like what has been done so far. The concept of Democratic Policing needs to be implemented. There has to be accountability to Police action. This would help bridge the gap between Police and locals. The RTI movement has been blunted so far. There are reports that RTI activist are harassed and false charge framed against them by the Police. DIG Police was on record saying that providing information under RTI Act hampers the investigation, but the truth is that J&K Police has been resisting against providing information even on Police welfare funds.
Better governance is the key to any flourishing society, policing the most crucial aspect of it. Over the years changes have been sometimes denied, mostly resisted. Its high time we act and change. “khoon ka badla june mein lenge” is doing rounds in the valley. That leaves us very little time to act but enough to begin.
......Maninder Jeet Singh