Dilbag Singh, who has been Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police for about a year now, says raising slogans is not always an expression of anger in Srinagar. In an interview to The Indian Express over a month after the clampdown in the state, the police chief says the detention rate is much lower than the pick-up rate. Police have used community bonds to pick up and then immediately release some 300 stone-pelters in the capital during the period, he says, and in the process successfully engaged with 3,000 people.
It’s over a month since the state’s special status was revoked and the massive clampdown imposed. How do you rate the current situation?
I say with great satisfaction that the situation has been by and large peaceful, barring some minor incidents at different places. The most volatile areas are most peaceful. In the entire south Kashmir, you have the least number of law and order incidents. Most incidents being reported are from Srinagar. And (in these), there has been certain amount of motivated reporting, especially by the foreign press. Routine incidents.blown beyond proportion.
I spent two hours at downtown (Srinagar) yesterday… Safakadal, Nowhatta, Khanyar just talking to my people. Two years ago, one of our Deputy SPs was lynched in the area. In that thana, I was told not a single incident worth reporting. That is actual downtown.
People were walking around. Shops are shut and I am not interested in forcing anyone to open shops, why should I? This is their business, their job. Only thing is we have to be a little careful in the evening that koi advantage na uthaye (no one should take advantage). Secondly, restrictions have been revoked from areas under 92 thanas. Only 13 police stations are left where there are restrictions. There are no restrictions anywhere in Jammu and Ladakh. In Leh and Kargil, Internet is working too.
Is the increase in the number of incidents at Srinagar a new development? In that light, was the death of a shopkeeper in Parimpora alarming?
In certain incidents, there is no violence or FIR. There is some venting of anger, that doesn’t come into cognizable offence. Why should I record it and spoil the career of that boy? When they cross a level, there is violence, stone pelting or someone is injured, there is a report. Raising slogans is a pastime here. It’s not always an expression of anger. You have seen downtown, routine mein bhi aadmi jayega toh pathar pad jayega.
We are trying to use community bonds. In some 300 cases, we have used community bonds to pick up and then release stone-pelters in Srinagar alone. And if 10 people come to seek release of 10 people per case, we have successfully engaged 3,000 people. They are released the same day.
In case of Parimpora, in the kind of movement that we are allowing, one odd element with a pistol is not a difficult thing. Three of them came and did it. I believe police have good leads and they will be identified. That was painful, a person enjoying a very good reputation, he was about 65, being killed only for opening his shop.
The thing that was worrisome was misuse of social media in a very big way by Pakistan and by Pak-sponsored stooges here. Very venomous in their posts. so only under that compulsion (did we clamp down). Otherwise, no one would like to inconvenience people. People are very dependent on mobiles now and there are so many services that are based on this platform. We will try to ease out those restrictions.
What is the next phase?
Militants have tried to pressure people not to carry out trade. They have gone around pasting posters in some places and people are resisting it strongly. At some places they tried to tell people not to use any transport but vehicles are plying. Then they warned petrol pump dealers, telling them that because of them civilian traffic is plying as normal. So they are concerned about how to tell the world that Kashmir is at a standstill. So far people have resisted this.
There have been reports and allegations of torture from South Kashmir. Are you aware of these?
We are monitoring the situation every day. There was one case where a boy was hit on the head accidentally by an army “tukdi”. We took a very serious note of it. They had gone to search a home and this happened, but that’s a whole different category of incident. However, people being picked up and tortured, I even saw some video alleging torture. I don’t understand where those boys are now. We do not have the convention of torture anymore. Nothing of that sort.
Opinion | Hearing the silence
Also, we have excellent rapport with the people that I’m very proud of. Yes, we are tough on militancy but we are also trying to bring (militants) back and hand them over to the family. There are times we don’t even book cases. In the last six or seven months, we returned 16 boys back to their families. A girl had run away from home in Tral to join militancy, we brought her back in 48 hours, we counselled her.
Was the constabulary disarmed during the implementation of the Centre’s August 5 decision?
In normal law and order duty, there are only lathis. We carry weapons only for operations. Weapons are only for PSOs or people on guard duty or security duties. We heard this (reports of police disarmed) right at the start and it’s absolutely wrong. In law and order duties, if a person has a stick he will use a stick, if he has a weapon, he will use a weapon. And if you can use a stick, why should you fire a weapon? That is why we have not fired a single weapon. In one month’s law and order deployment, not a single bullet has been fired anywhere.
What about detentions? How many people are currently detained in the state under different sections?
The figures are not specific, they change every day. Only thing is that our detention rate is much lesser compared to our pick-up rate. If we pick up five, we keep only one and the rest are released under community bonds. We have just a few hundred with us. It’s not a very high figure.
Political people who are under house arrest and such are not more than 35. With them, there was a concern that they might provoke people. So the administration decided that they should be restrained and it is for their security as well.
If you can save lives with some restrictions, what is more advisable? People say life with liberty but I say life first and then liberty.
How many militants are active at the moment?
Their numbers are not very high but their movement has been notable. About 150 in South Kashmir and 250 or so overall.
We have heard that police’s own information gathering is suffering because of the communication lockdown.
Police also works with sources, but now if the source’s phone is not functional so how do we speak to them. To some extent, yes. Information is a little delayed but it is reaching us.
Could the August 5 decision have been implemented any other way?
This was perhaps the only option. It (restrictions) looks very harsh but it has been very useful in maintenance of law and order. Of course, this has happened at a cost for the people but we are thankful for their cooperation. Human life is more important than communication.