J&K: cops turning militants alarming

The recent episode of special police officer (SPO) decamping with service weapons, including seven AK-47s, from a police post in Srinagar should set alarm bells ringing in Srinagar and New Delhi. The SPO is said to have joined the militants. Although links between police and militants were not uncommon in the 1990s, policemen deserting the J&K Police Force to join militant groups is a post-2015 phenomenon. Over 100 cops are currently facing charges for abetting separatism. This is worrying as the police force in J&K is mandated with fighting separatism and ensuring the rule of law in the state. There is the issue of cops decamping with weapons, too. At least 10 such incidents are said to have occurred over the last couple of years in Kashmir. What makes the recent incident particularly worrying is the fact that the police post from where the weapons were stolen was one guarding a legislator’s home. Security should have been tight here. India’s security establishment must probe how and why this happened.

Policemen have emerged the prime target of militants in recent years. Nearly 40 of them have been killed this year so far. Besides, militants have abducted family members of policemen and held them hostage. It is evident that the security of police personnel and their families is poor and an issue that troubles SPOs. Joining a militant group frees them from militant violence and intimidation. In addition, SPOs are poorly paid, unlike militant groups which provide fighters with better rewards for assassinations and other important attacks. Monetary inducements, too, could be drawing cops to join the militants.

Most worrying is the growing alienation and anger against the Indian State among personnel of the J&K police force. Since 2015, there has been a resurgence in the anti-India sentiment in the Kashmir Valley. It has drawn hundreds of youth to take up arms against the State. This sentiment has penetrated all sections of Kashmiri society and the J&K police could not have remained immune to it. India’s security establishment must look into how deep and widespread this sentiment is, especially in the J&K police force. Just a handful of cases of cops joining the militants have come to light but this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. It is the local police that play the main role in fighting any insurgency. Losing them to the insurgents is a loss that is not just hard to replace but could also prove dangerous. India must act to stem the flow of cops to the militant ranks.

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J&K: cops turning militants alarming

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