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Monday, August 6, 2012

DGP Prasad has a host of challenges in making JKP a shining force

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 5: It is nearly after a decade that an ‘outsider’ has been appointed as head of the 1.20 Lakh-strong Police organisation in Jammu and Kashmir that continues to be the country’s most sensitive state. By virtue of his holding a J&K desk in Intelligence Bureau and later functioning as head of the organisation in Kashmir for over a year, Ashok Prasad, nonetheless, is believed to be as much knowledgeable on J&K as any of the IPS officers of the state cadre.

In a security review meeting with officers from the rank of SP to ADGP on Saturday---his first after assuming office on July 23rd---Prasad sent out an intelligent signal. He made it clear to all officers that their performance would me measured on the basis of their current working, irrespective of their awards, medals and meritorious service in past. Nonetheless, if knowledge and experience are two different things, Prasad has to be recognized as a ‘new comer’ at J&K Police Headquarters. Obviously, for all fresh entrants, challenges of providing leadership to an indigenous Police force in a conflict area are galore.

Over the last 23 years of insurgency and a violent political strife, J&K Police has come out of the identity crisis it suffered in the beginning of militancy. Situation deteriorated abysmally when insiders blasted J&K Police Headquarters where entire Police top brass was at a meeting over the Republic Day arrangements, on January 25, 1992. Almost all top ranking officers, including then DGP J N Saxena, had a narrow escape. Many of them sustained injuries. First of its kind, the explosion was attributed to Hizbul Mujahideen’s “intelligence chief” who worked in Police. Hizb’s “Chief of Operations” Ali Mohammad Dar alias Burhan-ud-din Hijazi was batch mate of several officers who are either still in service or have retired as SPs.

For nearly seven years, a many officers took pride in describing themselves as ‘sympathizers’ of different militant outfits. When one of them was tasked to eliminate militants, he published a paid advertisement in local newspapers, declaring that he would never act “against my own brothers”. Another was posted as the first SP of then Special Task Force (STF) in Budgam. He too declared without hesitation that he could not act against the militants. Strangely, with one or two exceptions, all such officers enjoyed prize postings in the most lucrative Vigilance and Traffic Police.

History changed when a host of local Kashmiri Muslim officers, offered their services voluntarily in counter-insurgency operations. Soon a full 1999 KAS batch of fresh entrants fanned out on the counterinsurgency duty in entire Valley. Over the years, they have become real face of J&K Police on the crime and counterinsurgency front, beating many of their IPS colleagues who had neither families nor properties at risk. Officers of this batch, who are now all posted as SPs, as also others in the following batches, have retrieved credibility of J&K Police to a large extent.

In the field of competence, J&K Police was never inferior to any of the Indian states. While solving mystery of the disappearance of the Bollywood starlet Laila Khan and five others of her family, J&K Police has yet again established its supremacy over Bombay Police, one of the best in India.

On the other hand, perennial corruption has menacingly eaten into vitals of J&K Police in a many areas. Currently, a number of Police officers are in jail, or out on bail, facing charges of murder, drug trafficking and immoral trafficking. Many others have grown law unto themselves by grabbing lands, becoming partners of land grabbers, shielding and patronizing criminals, raising huge assets, including houses and commercial real estate, and enjoying immunity for all of their omissions and commissions. People associated with huge purchases at Police Headquarters have remained unchanged for years and decades.

Parallel to a glittering record of performance, J&K Police, unfortunately, has also a history of impunity. Hardly a Police official has been booked by State Vigilance Organization in a corruption related matter in the last 50 years of its life. Crime Branch has been no different.

In an atmosphere of tolerance, even the senior most officers served merely as “PSOs” of Chief Ministers and other Ministers and they enjoyed luxury of playing golf for hours every day when deaths occurred in bomb blasts. Unfazed by public outcry or criticism in media, they remained engaged in improving their own PR by supplying vehicles, escort personnel, PSOs and house guards to selective politicians and businessmen, as also other influential men and women, without a real threat perception to them. Even today, scores of illegitimately provided vehicles, fitted with red lamps and tinted glasses, are at the disposal of the favourites of certain Police officers.

In a manifestation of complacency and unholy tolerance, SSPs and DCs are now seen clapping hands at inauguration of the businesses of the Valley’s separatist leader. This camaraderie is now widely viewed, not an appendix of ‘democracy’ but a “greater nexus” between Police and actors and promoters of violence. How can an ordinary peace-loving Kashmiri repose faith in this kind of a system?

Over a thousand men from Armed Police and Security Wing are said to be still attached to non-entities in distant villages in the name of providing them ‘security’. Many of them have been left disarmed and, pitifully, not killed by militants. Prasad’s biggest challenge would be to get these people back to the Police reserve and convince the establishment that these self-styled VIPs could engage private people for driving their vehicles and cooking their meals. One of the nondescript spiritual healers from Kupwara has been provided over a dozen armed guards for the protection of his houses in Kupwara, Pampore and Janipura Jammu.

Even as the allegations of fake encounters and custodial killings against J&K Police are now at the nadir, there is no dearth of the people complaining corruption, extortion, wrongful detention and the SHO’s behaviour of refusing to act in serious offences but going proactive in trivial matters.

“Making the FIR weak” is now a phrase in the Police jargon. Facilitation in destroying of evidences, harassment to witnesses, procrastination in completing an investigation and filing challan, helping criminals in obtaining bail and detaining ‘A’ for ‘B’ were the hackneyed features in a section of the state Police. This malaise is now receding with the recruitment of well-mannered and well-educated graduates and post-graduates as SHOs and Munshis.

IGP Kashmir, S M Sahai, deserves credit in replacing a whole band of extortionist SHOs in Srinagar with the fresh-from-University Inspectors who abhor corruption as a social crime. Prasad would be doing a great service to his force by appointing young well-educated Inspectors and Sub Inspectors as SHOs and dutiful men as Munshis at all Police Stations in the state. Clean, dutiful Inspectors have proved that the system could function even without the lot of ‘old fossils’.

Prasad has himself flagged modernization as his top priority as DGP. Even after 65 years of Independence, J&K does not posses a full-fledged Forensic Science Laboratory. Even today, samples are being sent for forensic analysis to laboratories in Chandigarh, Ahmadabad, Hyderabad and Delhi. The age-old system of making the prisoners and detainees shuttle between jails and courts in the two regions of the state could have been replaced by installing video-conferencing facility at different jails. Installation and continued monitoring of CCTVs and other means of modern technology would enable J&K Police to book and prosecute criminals, particularly those involved in subversive activities, under normal laws. It would automatically make draconian laws like Public Safety Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act irrelevant. Some lessons of experimentation could be taken from National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Being an officer from IB, Prasad must be knowing that there is no compelling need to place over 400,000 Kashmiris in the infamous ‘Red Index’ that denies them access to government jobs, private businesses, pilgrimage, passport and studies abroad. This stands as the biggest dampener between the relationship of common man and the authorities. As a matter of common knowledge, this has led to a big “verification scam” as several Police officials have been extorting money from hapless civilians in lieu of getting clearance for passport or a government appointment.


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