It is no exaggeration to say that South Kashmir – especially Shopian district – is facing an “unprecedented wave of terror”.
The kidnapping and killing of three special police officers (SPOs) in Shopian’s Kapran area on Friday, 21 September has sent shockwaves across the families of 1.3 lakh police personnel, including 30,000 SPOs, in Jammu and Kashmir. In three hours of the assassinations, SPOs and their terribly anxious family members in Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama districts were seen delivering resignation letters to Imams of local mosques, imploring them to make announcement at the congregational prayers in the afternoon.
Though senior police officials insisted that most resignations were “rumours”, reliable sources across South Kashmir told The Quint that more than 30 resignations of police officials and SPOs were announced at the community mosques.
At least six of them posted videos on Facebook and WhatsApp groups to announce their resignation. One of them circulated a sworn affidavit – and yet another a signed letter.
#RESIGNING ON SPEEDY WAY: ANOTHER VIRAL VIDEO: SPO Namely Nawaz Ahmad Lone R/O Tangham Kulgam Resigned From #SPO Department dated on 20, 09 '2018Posted by Online J&K News on Friday, September 21, 2018
Cops Terrorised After Hizbul Chief’s ‘Final Warning’?
Three body bags from the Valley’s militant-infested swathes of apple orchards came days after Hizbul Mujahideen chief Riyaz Naikoo issued “final warning” to the SPOs.
In an audio clip – that went viral in social media – Naikoo asked all SPOs to quit their police jobs in four days, before deadline of 19 September, and sit home.
He alleged that the SPOs, who get Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 a month, were used for gathering information about militants’ movement and hideouts. That helped police and security forces to plan and execute their operations, he added.
"“We can swoop down on residence of any SPO and kill him. Nobody can stop the Mujahideen from killing the SPOs who fail to resign.”" - Riyaz Naikoo
However, even as, till late on Friday night, neither Hizbul Mujahideen nor any other militant outfit claimed or disowned the killings, everybody seemed to believe that Naikoo’s guerrilla group had begun to enforce the threat.
With no murmur of protest, or a call for shutdown, its ownership was evident.
South Kashmir’s “Wave of Terror”
Four SPOs and their family members, who spoke to The Quint in the Shopian-Kulgam belt on condition of anonymity, maintained invariably that there was an “unprecedented wave of terror” across South Kashmir.
They pointed out that even the leaders of the major mainstream political parties had either issued qualified condemnations or chosen to remain silent.
“Farooq Abdullah alone has issued an unqualified condemnation. Did you notice that even Omar Abdullah and BJP leaders are mute spectators to today’s bloodshed”, one of the SPOs said.
Three more policemen have lost their lives to militant bullets. Outrage, shock & condemnation will be expressed by all of us on expected lines. Unfortunately, it brings no solace to the families of the victims. 1/2— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) September 21, 2018
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. 2/2— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) September 21, 2018
“Not a single candidate has filed nomination papers for municipal elections across Central and South Kashmir in the first four days of the process. Such is the level of fear here”, said one SPO’s father.
All the four families maintained that another group killing would lead to “en bloc resignation” of all SPOs, even many constables.
“State Government itself has shamelessly failed to either regularise or enhance the honorarium of the SPOs. We are told that the Centre has approved a major enhancement six months back but the State has no will to bring any relief to them”, said another SPO’s brother, who is a schoolteacher.
Why Are SPOs Under Attack?
Crippling the J&K police, particularly its information -gathering and counter-insurgent components, seems to be the objective of the militants’ harsh measures.
However, most of the people interviewed in Srinagar and Budgam districts, believe that failing the municipal and panchayat election, from September to November, was a task at hand with the militants.
They argued that in absence of other potential targets, like candidates and voters, militants would, for now, continue to strike on the unarmed SPOs and policemen.
“As of now, we are facing the brunt. But, in the days to come, they may resort to political killings and kidnappings as they want to ensure that nobody participates in the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections due in 2019 and 2020, respectively,” said another SPO.
Of the 37 police personnel killed until 21 September this year, 10 are SPOs.
Some of the situation analysts believe that the government’s unnecessary hype to regularisation of SPOs, coupled with enhancement of their honorarium and substantial hike to their ex-gratia relief in case of death, had provoked the militants to increase pressure on this much-harassed lot of irregulars.
However, documentation and tabulations at the J&K police headquarters indicate that targeting the police personnel became a concerted drive only after Mufti Mohammad Sayeed took over as Chief Minister and head of the truncated PDP-BJP coalition in March 2015.
Data sheets are clear that no major group killing of policemen took place in the Valley in the last 10-15 years.
Before March 2015, four personnel, including two SPOs, were trapped during investigation of a case and gunned down at Haigam, a village on Srinagar-Sopore highway, on 26 April 2013. Rest six group killings, in which 25 policemen and 2 cash van guards of Jammu and Kashmir Bank were killed, took place from April 2015 to September 2018.
IGP Calls Cops’ Resignations ‘Fake’
Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir zone, Swayam Prakash Pani, cautioned that many of these resignations were “fake”. He argued that even three or four of such announcements from among a community of 30,000 SPOs would not terrorise or demoralise them or their families.
"“The fact that none of the terrorist organisations owned up these gruesome killings makes it clear that there’s tremendous negative reaction among the masses. At the wreath-laying ceremony in Shopian, we learned that there was resistance to kidnapping from several families.”" - IGP told The Quint
According to him, the police and security forces, in the last less than nine months, had eliminated 28 militants in Shopian alone.
“We have shattered their support structure with arrest of several OGWs (over-ground workers). They are under tremendous pressure from several quarters. These acts of fratricide from them speak volumes about their level of frustration and desperation,” he said.
Director General of Police (DGP), Dilbag Singh, reassured the traumatised SPOs and their families that the police department would leave no stone unturned to secure their life and properties. He asserted that a major relief and rehabilitation incentive would unfold for these families in near future.
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