Sources told DH that among other measures taken by the police top brass to prevent the weapon-snatching incidents, “a major step includes that vehicles of PSOs will be fitted with a device, which in turn shall be fitted with a chip, so that these vehicles remain under technical surveillance of the concerned police control room.”
“In case a vehicle goes in a suspicious direction, immediate steps will be taken to recover or follow it. Similarly, the movement of protected persons will be monitored by the concerned police control rooms to keep a track of the movement of his cavalcade,” they said.
In May last year, the police had blamed the overuse of smartphones by its personnel for the rise in the number of incidents of weapon snatching and banned their use during duty hours, especially by sentries.
After years of relative calm, the Kashmir Valley saw the first attempt of weapon-snatching in March 2014, when a young man tried to slit the throat of a policeman in broad daylight before trying to snatch his weapon on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway in Pampore town, 16 kilometres south of Srinagar.
The attacker was, however, overpowered by other policemen and taken into custody. No one in the security establishment had an inkling at that time that the weapon-snatching incident in Pampore will soon become a trend among the militants and those wanting to join their ranks.
Exactly a year later, Naseer Pandith, a policeman guarding the official residence of then minister in PDP-BJP government fled along with four service weapons to join Hizb-ul-Mujahideen outfit. He was killed in an encounter with security forces more than a year later in 2016.
The trend picked up after the killing of Burhan Wani, the face of new age militancy in Kashmir, on 8 July 2016. According to official data from the start of 2015 till ending 2017, nearly 150 guns and 102 tear gas shells and grenades were looted by militants in Jammu and Kashmir. Out of these 76 were later recovered.
In 2018 alone, 74 weapons were looted across Kashmir in various incidents by the militants. In September and October, two major weapon snatching incidents in the highly-fortified Jawhar Nagar area of Srinagar forced the police to issue new advisory to counter the trend.
In both cases, 11 policemen were suspended and are being questioned in custody. Increase in the weapon snatching incidents has resulted in the withdrawal of the services of special police officers (SPOs) who were protecting politicians of various parties.
“If the trend of gun-snatching is not controlled immediately, the state may be pushed to the brink of another major crisis which may exceed, in both magnitude as well as scale,” a senior police officer said.