The trend of policemen decamping with service weapons and joining militancy in Kashmir has become a major concern for the security establishment as it could be reflective of a strong pro-militant sentiment among a section of the local police.
On Friday, a special police officer (SPO) decamped with eight service weapons from a police post guarding the residence of a legislator in uptown Jawahar Nagar area of Srinagar. This is not an isolated incident as over 10 such incidents have been reported in the last more than three years.
However, the latest incident is a first of its kind where a policeman has deserted the force with such a large number of weapons. A policeman, SPO Adil Bashir, running away with seven AK-47 rifles and a pistol reveals a degree of penetration by the militants in the police force.
“This is a really worrying trend and we are looking into it. Though some measures had been taken in the past to stop this trend, Friday’s incident is a wakeup call for the police force to take preventive and corrective measures to stop this in future,” a senior police officer told DH.
“It is not possible for a single SPO to execute such a meticulous plan and run away with a huge quantity of weapons without being noticed,” he said.
Asked what prompts policemen to leave lucrative jobs and join militant ranks, where death is evident, the officer explained: “Social media has made militancy a 24x7 lived reality for everyone. The pictures and videos uploaded by the militants glamorize jihad, ensuring that a steady trickle of the impressionable youths take to militancy. In some cases, a few policemen also fall prey to the propaganda.”
Though the police-militant nexus dates back to the early 1990’s, the trend of cops deserting with weapons to join militancy emerged only after 2015.
In April 1993, a few thousand police personnel had rebelled out of anger at the death of a colleague, Riyaz Ahmed, allegedly while in army custody. The army and the paramilitary forces with the help of armoured cars in a pre-dawn swoop on Police Control Room (PCR) in Srinagar had to disarm more than 1500 policemen.
While the 1993 strike by the policemen was spontaneous, today the actions by cops are well-conceived. More than 100 members of the state’s police force face charges for abetting separatism and many more are said to believe in Kashmir’s right to political self-determination.
However, among more than the 1 lakh-strong force which has been fighting militancy for the last almost three decades, only a handful of policemen will acknowledge anti-India or pro-separatist bias.
The local police are the prime target of militants and nearly 40 cops have been killed this year so far. “You have to expect that some policemen will have to face internal ideological conflict. At one point, he’s a Kashmiri and second, he’s a Muslim. Because of these two facets, he is in a moral dilemma. He has to oscillate between extremes,” said a senior police officer.