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The Killing Of The Three Policemen In South Kashmir Is Just One Symptom Of The Increasing Divide Among Kashmiris

Certain quarters in the Valley view the killings of the policemen as ‘Kashmiri versus Kashmiri’

The abduction and killing of three policemen in south Kashmir’s  Shopian has set the ball rolling for a rift between local populace and the indigenous Jammu Kashmir Police department. In the twin villages of Batagund and Kaprin, the three policemen were first abducted and then killed during the wee hours of last Friday. The deceased were Kulwant Singh, SPO Firdous Ahmed Kuchey and Constable Nissar Ahmed Dhobi.

A high ranking police official told NewsCentral24x7, “The support for the militancy has started to dwindle gradually as such incidents (harassment of and attacks on families of policemen) have increased in the recent times in south Kashmir.”

The officer added, “I am sure that we will soon see local support for the militants coming to an end.”

It is for the first time that the funeral of policemen has had a good-moderate gathering otherwise hardly anyone among the locals would turn up for the funerals of slain policemen.

Valley-based photo-journalists, who work for various national and international media outlets, had visited the twin villages to cover the funerals of the three policemen. They had the same tale to narrate. A senior photojournalist working for an international news agency, wishing anonymity, told NewsCentral24x7, “People did not allow us to take the pictures. They said don’t click otherwise they (militants) would kill us as well. The anger against the militants was quite visible among the people.”

There is no denying that families of militants have always been harassed by the state since militancy began in Kashmir. Ransacking the houses of these families, harassment and arrests of the kith and kin of the militants is a common practice in the Valley. The twitter handle of former J&K police chief Shesh Paul Vaid is adding more fuel to the fire. Whenever an encounter between the militants and the government forces takes place, Vaid would end his tweets with “well done boys”. Such tweets, from a high ranking officer of a professional forces, had a completely negative effect on the ground.

Journalist and political analyst Gowhar Geelani explained former chief’s tweets in a more apt manner. He wrote on his official Facebook account, “Political Factors like the ugly culture of ‘well done boys’, use of language of power, and the practice of normalising violence against civilians and humiliating them are responsible for the lack of sympathy for a particular force. The unwritten ethics are being violated from ideologically antithetical sides. Sanity from both sides is what the doctor has ordered. (sic).”

It all started after government forces killed Altaf Ahmad Dar aka Altaf Kachroo, an A++ militant in Anantnag district. Soon after Altaf was killed, militants retaliated by killing four policemen in Bongam area of district Shopian. The forces then arrested Asadullah Naikoo, father of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo, during a night raid in Awantipora area of district Pulwama and also allegedly set fire to two houses in Shopian – the house in Amshipora belonged to Shahjahan, associated with Jaish-e-Muhammad and the house in Nazneen Pora belonged to Syed Naveed of Hizbul Mujahiddin.

Soon after, Hizb commander Riyaz Naikoo, in a stern warning to the policemen, asked them to resign and upload their video clips on the social media networking sites. At least seven policemen announced their resignation on the social media networking sites, shortly after the abduction and killing of three policemen in southern Kashmir.

Certain quarters in the Valley also view the killings of the policemen as ‘Kashmiri versus Kashmiri’. However, the killings of militants and policemen have been going on since the beginning of the militancy in Kashmir. Some also believe that the abduction and revenge-killing of the policemen was started by the police department itself.

Explaining the ‘Kashmiri versus Kashmiri’ conundrum, Gowhar Geelani said, “Kashmir’s civil society must speak up. Silence on critical issues is not an answer. All sides have to be made accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. Harassment of families of the armed rebels, dragging bodies of militants, slitting throats and revenge abductions and killings can’t be normalised.”

Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has also spoken up against the killings, “Clearly, with the rise in kidnapping of police personnel and their families, Centre’s muscular policy is not working at all. Dialogue, the only way forward seems to be a distant dream for now.”

The Kashmir conundrum has gone back to square one after the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) withdrew its support from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The official statement from the BJP about the upheaval it created in Kashmir said, “In the larger interest we tie up with you and in the larger interest we break-up from you.” When the elected government was in place, there was a hope of reconciliation between Srinagar and New Delhi. And the ceasefire announcement during the month of Ramzan did help in achieving peace in Kashmir. However, as far as the Kashmir issue is concerned, Modi was never Vajpayee.

Lately, more civilians have been killed by government forces near encounter sites as local have openly come out in support of the militants who get trapped. Both the BJP-PDP government and the governor tried to issue advisories using police and army officials but so far no heed has been paid to these advisories. The failures of the present dispensation are more than its predecessor. One indicator is the revival of militancy in Kashmir. With more locals joining militant groups, the centre and the state government will not be able to put the blame entirely on infiltration or Pak-sponsored troubles in Kashmir.

The new government and dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir will also be subject to the litmus test of civilian killings. PDP-BJP government cannot produce favourable figures in this respect either. People are also aware that the PDP-BJP government didn’t work out any means to bring civilian killings to an end. The rhetoric of the governor’s rule is the same as of the previous government: ask police and armed forces personnel to exercise maximum restraint. Any party of political force that promises practical means to end civilian killings may score in the next elections. National Conference, Congress and PDP cannot as they have lost their credibility in the valley.

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