The lynching of Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammed Ayub Pandit on June 22 by a hostile mob in Nowhatta in the heart of Srinagar city has brought into focus the constant danger the policemen of Jammu and Kashmir are exposed to. They are increasingly being targeted by not just the militants but hostile mobs too. Earlier, on June 15, two constables of the J&K Police were gunned down by militants — one in Kulgam when he was on leave and the other in Hyderpora in Srinagar. On May 28, the militants attacked a posse of policemen escorting a bank vehicle, killing all five of them in Phambal area of Kulgam. On June 16 this year, sub inspector Feroz Ahmed, who was the station house officer of Achabal area, was killed in an ambush near Kulgad village in Anantnag district. Five other policemen, travelling in the jeep with the SHO, also died.
In the first half of this year, the state lost 17 policemen as against 23 between September 2015 and August 2016 and 24 in the corresponding period in 2014-2015. The figures were 13 and 16 in 2012-2013 and in 2013-2014, respectively.
These unsung bravehearts leave behind a saga of sacrifice and dedication for the sole objective of keeping the nation united. For those who debate every night on the electronic media, almost accusing every Kashmiri of being an anti-national, there are stories galore in the Valley of their high degree of patriotism. These bravehearts in khaki are the sons of the soil who toil day and night to keep the terrorists at bay and operate against them in tandem with the Indian Army, the Central Reserve Police Force and other para military personnel.
The Special Operation Group, commonly known as the SOG, comprising of well-trained sharpshooters, are always alongside the army and para military forces to take on the militants. Though the security forces have their own intelligence set-up, it is the local policemen who get the actionable intelligence, on the basis of which the operations are carried out. These policemen not only have the advantage of speaking the local language but also have extensive knowledge and familiarity with the terrain. That helps in launching operations against terrorists without loss of time. Time is of essence in anti-terror operations and the policemen are undeniably and indubitably a great asset for successful operations.
The technical intelligence coupled with human intelligence that the J&K police provide is of immense value to the security forces not just in carrying out operations, but also in warding off attacks as had recently happened in Sumbal area of Bandipora district, where a well-planned attack in the wee hours of June 5 by four militants on a CRPF camp was foiled by the alert sentries of the camp this year. All the four militants were shot dead with no casualties on the CRPF side. The highly reliable intelligence gathered by the policemen enabled the SOG to rush to the camp in time and take on the militants along with the CRPF men.
Of late, the militants have started targeting policemen at their homes, which prompted the authorities to advise the men to desist from visiting their homes too often. The militants have issued diktats to the policemen to resign their jobs or face the consequences. It speaks volumes of their derring-do and devotion to duty that they have not succumbed to the pressure.
It is against this background that some of them had requested the government through social media that their martyrs be honoured in a befitting manner as is done in the army and the para military forces. None of the political leaders had ventured to attend the funerals of SI Feroz Ahmed and his colleagues. The presence of the leaders would have served as a motivating factor for the policemen besides being an expression of solidarity with the bereaved families. Later, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti made it a point to attend the funeral of DSP Mohammed Ayub Pandit.
Yet another sore point agitating the policemen is that they are asked to contribute a day’s salary to the bereaved families. Though they do not grudge making the contribution, they feel let down by the government that pulls its hands back when it comes to providing assistance to the families of the martyred. The Union Home Ministry contributes Rs 1 crore as solatium to any para military personnel killed in action against terrorists. The Delhi government is known to have paid Rs 1 crore to a CRPF jawan who was killed in an encounter with Maoists last year. This is apart from the solatium paid to the families by the Central government. The Punjab government is known to pay Rs 50 lakh as ex-gratia to the families of martyred personnel of defence and para military forces and has gone a step further by empowering deputy commissioners to grant the amount to cut down the delay in routing the required documents through different channels.
There is no reason why J&K police personnel who die in the line of duty should not be paid a similar amount considering that the personnel of this state perform their duties at grave risk not only to their own lives but also to their family members. While the army and para military personnel serve a fixed tenure in the Valley and can look forward to a peaceful tenure thereafter, the policemen of Kashmir cannot hope for that kind of luxury. There is, perhaps, a need to bring about uniformity in the ex-gratia amount paid to families of policemen killed on duty.
It is high time the state and the Centre looked into the grievances of the policemen and took measures to ameliorate their lot.