The abduction of Jammu & Kashmir policemen by militants in South Kashmir is not the first time that the force — in the frontline in the fight against militancy in the Valley — has been targeted. Only a day earlier, four policemen were killed when they were getting their vehicle repaired at a garage. Before that, an inspector and two constables were shot dead on Eid. Earlier this year, four policemen were targets of an IED attack in Sopore. Over the last two years, policemen have been targeted frequently. More than army soldiers and paramilitary personnel, very few of whom are from the state, the police force, made up entirely of J&K residents, is especially vulnerable to being targeted. The militants whom the policemen are battling are sometimes from the same districts and villages, and may even have kinship ties. Several times, militants have threatened policemen’s families, asking them to give up their uniform and take up arms against the state. The police, too, have a heightened awareness that they are fighting their own.
As many as 1,600 J&K policemen have laid down their lives since the start of the militancy in 1989, but only in the last two years are they being specifically picked out. In a place as small as Kashmir, each such killing has frayed the social fabric. The funerals for policemen are not as massive as those for militants, but they are well attended. Significantly, too, the killings do not seem to prevent J&K youth from joining the police. The police force continues to remain a career option for youth in the Valley. It is a job in the government, which is what everyone wants. Last year, nearly 70,000 youth turned up for the posts of some 700 sub-inspectors. What has changed, though, is the attitude of the militants themselves.
In the summer of 2016, when five policemen were killed in two separate attacks, there was such widespread condemnation that Burhan Wani, then the Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was forced to justify the killings, saying “policemen, though they are our own [people], compel us to act against them”, and that he had already warned police before, and “now no more warnings are necessary”. Now, no justifications are given. This points to a new breakdown, both social and political, in the Valley.
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