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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ex-Dy SP gunned down at Srinagar mosque

Over 100 Police officials shot dead at mosques in Kashmir in 23 years

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 10: Five days ahead of Independence Day celebrations in Kashmir and 18 days after Mr Ashok Prasad’s taking over as Director General of J&K Police, suspected militants have gunned down a retired Police officer in Batmaloo area of this capital city. Retired Deputy Superintendent of Police, Abdul Hamid Bhat, was coming out of a mosque after performing his afternoon prayers when an unidentified youth pumped bullets into his body, killing him on the spot.

Informed sources told Early times that 60-year-old Abdul Hamid Bhat S/o Ali Mohammad Bhat of Mominabad, Tengpura (Batmaloo), was coming out of Masjid-e-Bilal when two unidentified persons accosted him at the main entrance of the mosque at 1.30 p.m. today. One of them, according to eyewitnesses, took out an AK-47 rifle from his bag and fired a burst on Bhat in point blank rage. Bhat, who was tying laces of his shoes, fell in a pool of blood and died on the spot. Eyewitnesses told Police that the assailants walked away rather leisurely and vanished into a neighbourhood close to the national highway bypass.

As panic gripped the area and Police rushed an unconscious Bhat to SMHS Police, doctors declared him ‘brought dead’. Official sources said that Bhat was found hit by four AK-47 rounds. However, a Police agency reported that the assassin used a pistol.

According to authoritative sources, Bhat was actually a resident of Shaheed Gunj area who had been living at his newly built house at Mominabad, Batmaloo. He had retired from service last year as a company commander in IRP 14th Bn. Prior to that, he had served a three-year-tenure as Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO) of M R Gunj, in the heart of downtown Srinagar. On account of his conduct, he had landed in controversies on a couple of occasions. In months of his appointment as SSP Srinagar in 2010, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari had got him removed on complaint basis to IRP where he retired last year.

IGP Kashmir, Shiv Murari Sahai, told Early Times that no militant outfit had immediately claimed responsibility but Bhat’s killing was believed to be the handiwork of militants. He said that a network of active and recycled militants, some of them operating in Srinagar and others coming in from outside, was believed to have conducted reconnaissance survey of the spot and finally carried out the target killing today. He said that earlier this year, militants had similarly gunned down a Block President of the ruling National Conference in Nattipora area.

Sahai said that Police had registered a criminal case and started investigation. He sounded confident that Police would soon neutralize the fresh guerrilla network and bring assassins to justice. “As of now, we have no clue with regard to identification of the group and Bhat’s killers but we are hopeful of a breakthrough soon”, IGP Sahai said. He said that Bhat had no counterinsurgency or operational background but Police would find who killed him and why.

Bhat’s killing, that occurred just five days short of the I-Day celebrations and at a time when the capital city was on a high alert, has spread a wave of fear in Batmaloo area of Srinagar. Like in Nattipora, suspected militants have established that they could operate in broad daylight even in more protected areas like Batmaloo. It is the first killing of a Police officer since Mr Ashok Prasad assumed charge as DGP on July 23rd.

Earlier this year, suspected militants had gunned down ASI Sukhpal Singh while on traffic regulation duty at Darishkadal, near Safakadal, in Srinagar, on April 20th. Later, on July 3rd, suspected militants had shot dead constable Dalbir Singh while on duty at Rajpora Chowk of Pulwama. On the same day, militants had gunned down Constable Mukhtar Ahmad at a Police naka, on the day of Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand’s tour, at Yaripora, Kulgam, in south Kashmir. Militants have also carried out at least four grenade and firing attacks on the Police stations of Sopore and Pattan in north Kashmir in the last three months.

100 cop killings at mosques
According to official statistics, militants have killed as many as 1540 Police personnel, including 615 SPOs and VDC members, in Jammu and Kashmir since the armed insurgency broke out in 1989. [This does not include over 4,000 men from army and paramilitary forces who have died in guerrilla strikes and gunbattles with militants]. Of them, over 100 J&K Police personnel have been killed while going to or coming out of mosques after performing prayers.

In fact the entire series began with the killing of then SHO Maisuma, Inspector Saadullah, who was the first target of militants on December 1st, 1989. Saadullah was gunned down by suspected JKLF militants when he was coming out of mosque at Maisuma after performing prayers. Later, victims of identical target killings included a number of Inspectors, Dy SPs and SPs (like Abdul Majid Lone and Mohammad Amin Khan).

On February 2, 2004, suspected militants gunned down DIG Mohammad Amin Bhat at a mosque at Baghat Barzullah Chowk in Srinagar when he was coming out after performing the congregational prayers of Eid-al-Azha. Till date, he is the senior most Police officer who has been shot dead by militants in the last 23 years.


Friday, August 10, 2012

Omar Govt’s Eid gift to Dukhtaraan chief

Wanchoo murder convict, Faktoo being released next week

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 9: Muslim League leader and former chief spokesman of the dreaded militant group Jamiatul Mujahideen, Ashiq Hussain Faktoo alias Dr Qasim, who is also the Dukhtaraan-e-Millat chief Asiya Andrabi’s husband, is likely to be released from over 10-year-long imprisonment in jail next week.

Authoritative sources revealed to Early Times that that the state Home Department, with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah holding the Home portfolio, was asking different wings of J&K Police to set Faktoo free before the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr on August 19th. Sources disclosed that unlike in 2010 and 2011, Government was actively considering release of over a dozen separatist political detainees and Faktoo was one among them.

Currently lodged in Srinagar Central Jail, Faktoo has served life term awarded to him by Supreme Court of India for killing noted human rights activist Hriday Nath Wanchoo. Authorities have not released him for fear of Faktoo’s potential in fomenting trouble and rejuvenating Valley’s separatist movement.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani had launched a sustained campaign earlier this year for Faktoo’s release. Even as he was once shifted from Srinagar Central Jail to a Police detention centre at Humhama, indicating his release in 2010, Faktoo was returned to his imprisonment when the situation was improving after four month-long street turmoil.

Faktoo has the distinction of being J&K’s first prisoner who has completed his Ph D during the course of his detention. University of Kashmir has awarded him degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Islamic Studies.

After his Bachelor’s in Commerce in 1987, Faktoo was introduced to militancy by Mohammad Abdullah Bangroo alias Khalidul Islam, one of the top commanders of the Hizbul Mujahideen. In 1990, he was appointed Hizbul Mujahideen’s spokesman. This association didn’t last long. A few months later, he, with two others, broke away to launch the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen and Faktoo was made its first spokesman. He operated with pseudonym of Dr Qasim.

In October 1990, Faktoo married Syeda Aasiya Andrabi, chairperson of women’s separatist organization Dukhtran-i-Millat. In February 1993, he was arrested alongwith his wife and their child on arrival from Maharashtra at Srinagar Airport. While Aasiya Andrabi and the child, Mohammad, were released after 13 months, Faktoo was booked under PSA and later prosecuted for the killing of human rights activist H N Wanchoo. In March 1999, he was released on bail and became the first militant leader to float the idea of an indigenous separatist movement independent of Pakistan. He visited his relatives in London but was arrested on his return at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, allegedly with a huge consignment of money.

In July 2001, the TADA court in Jammu acquitted him in the Wanchoo murder case. Dr Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference government fought a sustained legal battle from J&K High Court to Supreme Court of India to ensure that Faktoo was punished for his involvement in eliminating Wanchoo. Finally, in 2003, the Supreme Court held Faktoo guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

Having served his term, he has not been released. However, on his petition, J-K High Court had asked the state government to consider his release. In the face of Government’s failure, Geelani had launched a campaign to seek Faktoo’s release.  

Police had claimed last year that Faktoo was among the people and militants who planned Jamiat Ahle Hadith chief Maulana Showkat’s killing in an IED blast at Maisuma, in Srinagar, on April 8th, 2011. However, SSP Srinagar Ashiq Bukhari dropped the charge against him when he personally questioned Faktoo and learned that he had no role in Maulana Showkat’s killing. It is not immediately clear whether Faktoo alias Dr Qasim, now one of the highest profile separatists in J&K, would carry out his political activity independent of Geelani-led Hurriyat Conference or join the hardline conglomerate.


NC rejects Jethmalani as ‘link between BJP and PDP’

‘He is drumming up support for Mufti. Separatists should come clean on the deal’

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 8: Wary of the activity of some conflict managers from New Delhi, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s National Conference (NC) has dismissed head of the NDA-floated erstwhile Kashmir Committee and former union Law Minister of the Vajpayee government, Ram Jethmalani, as a ‘broker between BJP and PDP’.

Apparently stung by visits and meetings of eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani and conflict manager Madhu Kishwar with a number of separatist leaders and the PDP chief Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, NC has finally broken its silence with a hard-hitting statement today.

“The mask of credibility of Jethmalani has slipped and it is now clear that his mission is to drum up support for Mufti”, NC’s spokesman Tanvir Sadiq said. A policy statement like today’s is believed to have been issued not without the approval of the acting President and Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah.

“Now it is proven beyond doubt that this BJP MP has no love for the Kashmiri people or their cause.  He is here for the furtherance of their agenda to abolish article370 with the help of Mufti” Sadiq added. He said that NC’s additional General Secretary, Dr Mustafa Kamaal, stood vindicated with Jethmalani’s activities. In a recent statement, Dr Kamaal had said that Mufti and his PDP were the creations of BJP, RSS and other communal forces.

“The fact that a BJP MP has come all the way from Delhi to garner support for the PDP shows where their loyalties lay and how anti-Kashmiri the PDP, BJP and now their newfound friends are” said Tanvir Sadiq without naming hardline separatist Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and others of the separatist politicians Jethmalani had met here last week.

“These unfolding events expose Mufti’s desperation in the face of the government’s continued success at all fronts that he has to get a BJP MP and other people to lobby for support from the APHC” said Tanvir in his prompt reaction to reports carried in a local daily. “These events and the recent Pakistani flag show how desperate and worried he is”.

The NC spokesman hit at the separatist camp terming it shameful to interact with “a broker like Ram Jethlmalani, whose sole aim is to get Mufti on the power saddle and his appeal to them shows his hidden agenda”.

According to the NC spokesman, the people of Kashmir had a right to know if all of their sacrifices till date were only for striking a deal between Mufti, APHC and the BJP through a BJP MP to get him (Mufti) back to power. “Their discreet silence is proving as such” Tanvir remarked, asking the Valley’s separatist leadership to come clean on Jethmalani’s mission and their meetings with the BJP leader.

“The separatist and the so-called proponents of Azadi should come clean on the reported deal between them and Mufti”, Tanvir asserted. “We demand that all the people who have met BJP MP and others who according to news reports have come here to strike a deal between the APHC and PDP should come clean on this and let the people know if they have sold their conscience” he suggested.

During his recent visit, Jethmalani has called on a number of Kashmiri separatist leaders. He was midway also joined by Madhu Kishwar who is known in Valley as a PDP supporter after a separatist-turned-mainstream politician confronted her on television in 2010 and alleged that she was “batting for a particular party”. However, the NC spokesman has not directed his party’s ire on her.

Over a decade ago, BJP-led NDA Government at the Centre had promoted Jethmalani-led Kashmir Committee in its interactions with all shades of Kashmir politics. Journalists Dileep Padgoankar and M J Akbar too were members of the committee that met a large numbers of separatist as well as mainstream leaders in a series of visits but failed to achieve a breakthrough in the political stalemate. It did not exist for the next nine or ten years.

Since last year, Jethmalani has constituted it afresh and involved some new members, including a Kashmiri student. Significantly, hardliner Geelani and Jethmalani have met on a number of occasions, visiting each other’s residences in Srinagar and New Delhi.


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ganderbal clash political, not sectarian: Jamaat

‘Don’t think of repeating 1979. Much of water has flown down the Jhelum’, Geelani warns Omar Abdullah’s NC

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 7: Even as Jamaat-e-Islami today claimed that Monday’s group clash, that left one of the organisation’s activists killed and several others wounded at Sindhbal village of Ganderbal, was “political, not sectarian”, JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik described it as a “blot on the face of entire nation”.

“It was a purely political clash, not religious or sectarian”, Amir of Jamaat-e-Islami, Sheikh Ghulam Hassan, asserted at a news conference at the party’s headquarters at Batmaloo today. He elaborated: “National Conference’s goons, led by their Sarpanch, carried out this heinous attack on the people performing prayers at the mosque. They are disturbed over Jamaat’s growing influence in Ganderbal area”. Sheikh claimed that Jamaat was never in favour of clashes and conflicts, nor did it ever believe in carrying out attacks on its rivals.

“Jamaat believes in conveying its ideas peacefully. This is all about a political conflict and not a religious or sectarian issue”, he said and asked Police to resist all political influences and hold an impartial investigation into the circumstances that led to yesterday’s group clash and death of a Jamaat worker. Jamaat’s local Nazim-e-Halqa, Noor Mohammad Shah, has sustained serious injuries in the same group clash.

Jamaat’s chief  alleged that the ruling NC’s Sarpanch, Mohammad Subhan Wani, had already asked the slain youth, Shabir Ahmad Bhat, to close down teaching of holy Quran at the mosque and threatened him to face dire consequences in case of default. He claimed that yesterday’s attack on the Jamaat people was a “well planned attack”. He said that reports of the ‘sectarian clash’ were not correct as all residents of the disturbed village were followers of ‘Hanafi Maslak’.

In a separately issued statement, Chairman of the hardline faction of Hurriyat Conference, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, too held the ruling National Conference responsible for attacking the Muslim gathering during prayers at the mosque. He alleged that attacking its ideological and political rivals was characteristic of the NC, which, according to him, had always believed in crushing opponents with force and muscle power.

“However, these people must understand that much of water has flown down the Jhelum since they destroyed properties of Jamaat-e-Islami followers in riots in 1979. This in not going to be repeated as there is now no space for this party of fascist thinking”, Geelani warned Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s mainstream political party. He alleged that occupying mosques and replacing Imams by Panches, Sarpanches, paid agents and ‘Sarkari Maulvis’ was part of an Indian conspiracy to debilitate the Kashmiris’ “freedom struggle”.

According to Geelani, NC was had already captured a large number of Wakf properties, shrines and mosques through a governmental body and it was now attempting to gain control on other mosques and places of worship with the complicity of some ‘Sarkari Maulvis’. He alleged that stoking the fire of sectarian passions was a gameplan of the Indian agencies assigned to their paid agents and clerics.

“These people (NC activists) are loyal to India and her paid agents. They alone have handed over Kashmir on a platter to Delhi. They are the chronic enemies of the followers of our religion and can go to any extent in wiping them out”, Geelani said while calling yesterday’s killing “a clear case of state terrorism”.

Chairman of Hurriyat’s so-called moderate faction, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that it was unfortunate that the blood of a Muslim had been spilt at a mosque at the time of prayers in the holy month of Ramzan. He condemned the incident and called upon people of all faiths and ideologies to remain united for preserving the sacrifices of thousands of Kashmiris for freedom from India.

In yet another reaction, JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik, who visited Sindhbal village today and called on the bereaved family, described yesterday’s group clash and death of a youth in the melee “a blot on the entire nation”. He said that the clash had unfortunately occurred in hours of JKLF holding a conference on unity of all sects and schools of thought.  

“This is a serious incident and a shame for the whole nation. Nation should mourn this killing as it is killing of humanity and against the teachings of Islam”, Malik said. “This killing is a blot on the face of nation. Those who committed the crime are enemies of Islam. As a nation it is a matter of concern for us and a litmus test for Ulema and religious organizations. We have to rise above our petty interests and find a solution how to curb sectarian clashes,” JKLF chairman added.

Malik said that the gravity of the situation deserved a fresh and keen look by all of us especially the Ulema and religious leaders and parties which have a much bigger role to play.

Stressing the need for unity among the Muslims, Malik called upon the Ulema, scholars, Imams and Khateebs of all Masalaks to raise above their sectarian considerations and interests and fight together all the conspiracies aimed at dividing Umah in the name of Maslaks.

Demanding stern action against the killers, Malik said, “The family of the deceased has lodged an FIR against the killers. We strongly demand that they should be booked under section 302 and stern punishment should be awarded to the killers so that no one dared to repeat such acts in future.”


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Jamaat worker killed in Valley’s first sectarian bloodshed

NC goons attacked our men at Namaaz in a mosque: JI spokesman

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 6: A 20-year-old student has died and three others sustained injuries in the Valley’s first sectarian bloodshed that happened between the ruling National Conference (NC) and the pro-Pakistan Jamaat-e-Islami workers in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s Assembly constituency of Ganderbal today.

Informed sources told Early Times that Muslims belonging to conflicting schools of thought have been developing differences with each other over a mosque and volume of its public address system at Sindhbal village in Ganderbal since earlier this year. The situation took an ugly turn today when the two groups clashed violently on occasion of the Zohar (afternoon) congregational prayers this afternoon.

During the course of clashes, at least six persons sustained injuries. They were rushed to District Hospital Ganderbal for medical treatment. Police swooped on the warring factions and restored peace. However, one of the critically injured, namely Shabir Ahmad Bhat s/o Ghulam Nabi Bhat (20), who was reportedly a B Sc first year student, was referred to SKIMS, Soura. He succumbed to injuries en route.

Arrival of the dead body ignited the skirmishes afresh and people of the warring groups began attacking and ransacking each other’s houses and properties. Again, reinforcement rushed to the village and Police succeeded in restoring calm after a great deal of trouble. Reports awaiting official confirmation said that on the District Magistrate’s orders, Police enforced undeclared curfew and forced people of both groups to stay indoors. Reports said that DC Ganderbal, Showkat Ahmad Mir, and SP Ganderbal, Shahid Meraj, visited the disturbed village and asked authorities to maintain control over the situation and ensure safety of all lives and properties.

SP Ganderbal, Shahid Meraj Rather, told Early Times that, for the last few months, there have been differences in the village between the people who have reverence and faith for shrines and saints and those who have not. He said that the quiescent skirmishes turned violent today when people of both groups quarreled with each other on the space of Hamam. (Other reports said that the clash triggered off over the volume of the PAS at the mosque as one group insisted it be low and another high). SP said that four persons sustained injuries and they were all rushed to hospital. He said that one of them, namely Shabir Ahmad Bhat, died on way to SKIMS.

SP Ganderbal said that Police had immediately registered a matter of murder and arson during the group clash under FIR No: 24 of 2012 under section 302 RPC. He said that Police swung into action and restored calm while restricting movement of the residents. However, the funeral rites of the youth killed in the clash were performed smoothly. He said that Police would professionally investigate the matter and nobody involved in the killing would be spared. He said that all the accused would be arrested by tomorrow and interrogated for their role in the bloody clash.

SP Ganderbal said that according to the information available with him, it was a sectarian clash with no political overtones. He said that political affiliation of the warring groups could be just a coincidence.

However, spokesman of Jamaat-e-Islami, J&K, Advocate Zahid Ali, insisted in his statement that it was a “matter of state terrorism”. According to him, a group of 20 attackers, all belonging to the ruling National Conference and led by the NC’s local Sarpanch Mohammad Subhan Wani, swooped on the Jamaat followers and left a number of them wounded on occasion of Zohar prayers at the village mosque. He said that two of the critically injured, namely Shabir Ahmad Bhat and Noor Ahmad Shah, who was Naazim-e-Halqa of Jamaat-e-Islami in the village, were referred to a Srinagar hospital where Shabir Ahmad Bhat died.

Advocate Zahid alleged that the attack of ruling NC workers on the Jamaat followers at a mosque during the holy month of Ramzan was part of a “deep-rooted conspiracy” against the religious organisation. J&K head (Amir) of Jamaat-e-Islami Sheikh Ghulam Hassan and other leaders of the organisation have also condemned today’s gory incident in Ganderbal and held the state government and the ruling NC responsible for it.

NC’s spokesman Tanvir Sadiq could be reached for his reaction over telephone. However, he maintained that he had no knowledge of the incident in question. “I will call you back as soon as I get facts from Ganderbal”, Tanvir said but did not call back till filing of this report. There was no official press release on the incident from Zonal Police Headquarters either.

NC’s Kashmir Province Vice President, Sheikh Ghulam Ahmad Saloora, who himself happens to be a resident of Ganderbal, claimed that it was a “clash between the believers and non-believers of shrines and saints”.

“National Conference as organisation has no role in it”, Saloora asserted. He explained that 90% of the population in Sindhbal was supporter of the NC and believer in saints and shrines, contrary to the practice and belief of 10% of Jamaat-e-Islami followers. He said that the residents had lately replaced the Imam of the mosque who was “pro-Jamaat” and they had begun loud Darood Khwani since beginning of the holy month of Ramzan. This, according to him, was objected to by the Jamaat followers and the difference of opinion culminated into a clash “between aitiqadis and non-aitiqadis” in which a youth died and few others sustained injuries.

With the differences between the two schools of thought spiraling in several areas of Kashmir valley in the last couple of years, this is for the first time that a death has taken place in a sectarian clash.


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.