Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbag Singh talks to Naveed Iqbal about the situation in the Valley and detentions in the region. Excerpts:
Why were the panchayat elections in J&K deferred just five days after they were announced?
Security is an on-going issue but (Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah) Geelani’s health has been fluctuating, and that must have weighed on somebody’s mind. Whether, if something happened, it would be the right thing in this kind of environment.
Police have said they would book anyone accessing social media via VPN under the UAPA? Does the use of social media warrant arrest?
Technical controls by service providers are not that strong. Despite a government order that some sites should not be accessed, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter are being accessed. VPN use is not right, but maybe it has not gone to the level of being illegal. We will decide… We have filed a case under the UAPA. Two people have been also picked up from Geelani’s house for circulating a video of his, which amounts to instigation… Anything with a law and order bearing will be included.
So you’re saying that VPN use is not a criminal act but that police would decide whether something is legal or illegal?
The use of VPN is violation of the government order allowing access to only whitelisted sites… However, we are focused on misuse rather than use of VPN.
What is your estimation of the current situation in J&K?
I understand that it is improving. The level of violence is down, falling 60% between January 2019 and January 2020, which is not a small thing. There have been no civilian killings or collateral damage. Till Thursday, since the beginning of the year, 23 militants had been killed.
In that case, why is there fresh deployment in the Valley?
It is only an exchange, inter-range movement, only the CRPF.
How many people are in detention now, and can those held in jails outside be brought back to J&K?
The figure is not very high, must be around 150, other than under the PSA. The problem is that there is limited capacity in jails here… There are about 300 in jails outside, but some have been released and more cases are being reviewed.
Most groups have a scattered presence now. The Al-Badr has been almost wiped out and the local presence is of Hizb. The number of active militants are within 240. They were 317 in June 2018. But our worry is that while local recruitment has come down, infiltration is still continuing, an average of 150 a year. Since August 5, recruitment is less than 50% of previous years. This year, figure is not more than 22. Out of this, eight have been returned to their families.
But if the situation is improving, why are people still being booked under laws like the PSA?
The improvement of situation is relative… People made stories about thousands of arrests but we always maintained that the number was around a thousand during the entire period of tension. 90% was preventive action.
A total of 192 FIRs were filed, a majority under the UAPA, specifically for instigation or direct involvement in law and order situations. What would you choose? Preventive action and a situation where they are not booked in the long term or an FIR under the UAPA? I believe our preventive action controlled the situation significantly.
Additionally, the ratio between detention and retention is very low. Only about 20% have been retained, others released within 72 hours. To be fair, in hardly any case did we have to pick up those people again.
In case of the 20% we have detained, the PSA was used in case of not more than 350. These are people who put up posters, went locality to locality to threaten or instigate people.
Politically, there were a maximum 36 detainees, all have been released but for nine detained under the PSA.
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