With an illustrious career spanning more than three decades, Muneer Khan took over as chief of Kashmir Police recently. In an interview with Chasfeeda Shah, Mr Khan, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, spoke about the new challenges and the strategies required for restoring normalcy on the streets in Kashmir.
CS: How would you describe your journey in police till date?
MK: I was born and brought up in Srinagar. I was a student of DAV School followed by Amar Singh College and then Kashmir University. Way back in early eighties, I did my LLB from Kashmir University and after that I appeared for Combined Service Examination and was posted as Dy SP in police department.
Right from the beginning, joining police was my first choice. I still remember when we appeared for the examination and I only ticked one service, that was police. I had a passion for police service and still enjoy being here. It has moulded me and, because of it, one is able to take independent decisions. You tend to go into things deeply because investigation is part of our service. And, of course, the initial training, what we learnt, the signs are still in me, i.e. a disciplined person in life with a commitment to the job.
The journey has been long and tough but I am satisfied. In fact, the 1984 batch saw normal policing only for three years. In 1986, I was assigned my first posting as Deputy Superintendent of Police in Anantnag and 1989 it (militancy) all started. So three years of normal policing and after that we were there to face militants. Initial days were tough because we never knew what is hitting us, right and left, and we were not prepared either mentally or physically. Also, we lacked proper weaponry. The infrastructure to deal with militancy was not there, so we had to face a tough time initially for at least two to three years. But gradually we created a space and then there was no going back.
Everybody knows that the J&K Police contributed a lot in bringing the situation back to normalcy. So after that, I also headed number of districts in valley including in Doda as SP and SSP. Then I remained as range DIG of all the three ranges of valley. I was promoted as Inspector General of Police in 2012 and posted as IGP Traffic where I remained posted for three years followed by Crime Department and a short stint as Director Vigilance. Now, I am here as IGP Kashmir.
CS: What inspired you to joine police?
MK: Nothing much inspired me but, yes, we had a history of police in family. My grandfather, Sardar Wazir Mohmmad Khan was a police officer and retired as DIG Police. He was the last one in our family who was in police. Just to follow the legacy, I decided to be in police and my aptitude for the job made me to do so.
CS: You have held some top positions in your career in police department. Which one is memorable for you and why?
MK: The toughest phase for me was the posting of SSP Doda in 1998 to 2000 because of the terrain, length and breadth of the district with negligible road connectivity in interior areas when militancy was at its highest. You had to walk on foot for miles and the sensitivity of the district was there. You had to maintain the communal balance which was 50 percent Hindus and 50 percent Muslims in Doda. Multi-tasking was always a tough task. But fortunately, I had a successful tenure there. But, later on, I enjoyed my posting as SSP Anantnag and SSP Baramulla, because those were considerably a bit soft districts and I had time to do some extracurricular activities.
CS: You recently served as Director Vigilance which is being considered as the institution to reform the system. How was the experience working there?
MK: It was great and I am happy to tell you that I did my best in a very short span. The disposal of long pending cases was a matter of satisfaction for me and in my tenure of three months, I challaned around 17 cases for judicial determination. Besides, we arrested some wanted accused officials which sent a very clear message to everybody that the organisation meant business and there is zero tolerance for corruption. I am thankful to the Hon’ble Chief Minister and Hon’ble Governor who gave me full support during my tenure as Director Vigilance. They were clear that we should go all out against corrupt officials. That is why we could take very strong steps and got the desirable results.
CS: As the head of vigilance organisation, how did you see the system in J&K in terms of corruption?
MK: To fight against the menace of corruption needs improvement, streamlining and accountability in DVO’s (Departmental Vigilance Officers). If they take their work seriously and sincerely, then the things would not come to the Directorate. Their seriousness towards work will certainly have an impact. DVO’s can handle the things on their own level and can bring lot of changes in every department.
CS: What are the immediate challenges you have to deal with as the top cop in the Valley?
MK: Well, Kashmir Valley is a different cup of tea whether it is militancy or law and order. As of now, when I joined as IGP Kashmir, I see two challenges which are alarming and need to be dealt on priority. One is the radicalisation of youth which needs to be attended through multi-pronged strategies like counselling, job avenues and some analysis to find out why this radicalisation is taking place. The other issue is that the law and order problem today is militant driven and the elimination of militants is very important. Till the time they are operating with ease, you will have many more and lot more law and order problems.
The new trend is that they instigate the youth who come on the streets and start pelting stones on operational sites. It is clear what drives them. So, when the number of militants gets less, the law and order problem will come down automatically. But yes, the disturbance is there and the concentration gets lost sometimes. In some cases, the militants get the opportunity to escape because of clashes at encounter sites. So this thing is to be checked on priority. Besides, drug addiction, especially in teenagers, is a matter of concern. For this menace, community policing is the answer where we all get involved – police, parents and society as a whole, and do something about it because ultimately it will drag and lead the youth and the society into a disaster.
CS: What are the initiatives taken by the police to bridge this missing link with the society?
MK: I think a number of measure have been taken, starting from civic action programs, reaching out to the youth, parents, opening up drug de-addiction centres and facilitating youth by way of giving them opportunity of coaching for competitive exams and other things. Police is on it and let me assure you, the endeavour is to bridge this gap as quickly as possible. People should feel that we are from the same society and they should take us as friends. Law abiding person should take us as a friend but as far as outlaws are concerned, there should be no concession.
CS: In coming days, are you we going to see intensification in the counter-insurgency operations against militants?
MK: Yes, looking at the number of militants in south and north Kashmir, the number of operations will be on the higher side.
CS: There is no end to the student protests in Kashmir. Does it worry you? Are these protests becoming the next big challenge for the police?
MK: It is really alarming and a matter of concern because we have been trying our best not to confront the students. Somehow, when they cross the limit and indulge in lawlessness or stone pelting, then we are bound to stop them. But yes, through your medium, I would like to appeal to the parents of the students and the staff to let students concentrate on studies. Unfortunately they do not know the harm they are causing to their future. After a gap of six or seven years, these students will land up nowhere. Then they will realise the mistake of not concentrating on their academics and indulging in all this. All of us know that in today’s world, for any profession, the basic thing is qualification. If you don’t have it, you will never excel in any profession.
CS: Have you registered any FIR against students involved in recent protests. Are there any outsiders instigating the student protests?
MK: Of course there have been some incidents where we have arrested outsiders who were indulging in protests and stone pelting in colleges. As far as lodging of FIR against the students is concerned, I don’t have the exact number, but no cases have been registered, unless it is a chronic violation. We first call parents for counselling, we talk to their teachers and handover the students to them. My directions are that only in extreme cases should we lodge FIR against students. Once you are involved in criminal cases, then you can’t get any verification. Your life comes to a standstill. At that time, no one comes to your rescue.
CS: The image of police has taken a hit in this long-drawn Kashmir conflict, owing to the alleged human rights violation committed by forces in past. Do you have any plan in mind to change the perception of people towards police and make the relation more friendly?
MK: I will not say that we have not committed mistakes and our work has been flawless. As human beings, we do commit mistakes and we are punished for it. There are number of cases where officers have been penalised and punished. Even some SPs are in the lock up for their wrongdoings. Police is basically part of the society. I come from a society, you come from the same society and they also come from the same society. So, sometimes, yes, I do make mistakes but most of the times you make me to make mistakes. You make me to do certain things which I never wanted to do. But yes, the system of checks and balances in police is quite tough and I don’t think there is much scope for anybody to indulge in repeated and deliberate mistakes and get away with it.
CS: Why, in your opinion, is there no end to the on-going protests in the Valley?
MK: Well, I will not say that there is no end to it. Kashmir Valley is a different cup of tea and yes, there is a new phenomenon in shape of militant-driven law and order problems and radicalisation of youth. It is not endless. It is only for some time. There will be a lull accompanied by peace and then one incident tears it apart and the vicious cycle goes on and on. But the law and order, which is militant driven, will come to an end. When militants, hard-core elements, will be no more, when they will be neutralised, things will automatically improve.
CS: Recently, union defence minister Arun Jaitley termed the situation in south Kashmir as a challenge for the forces, terming restoration of peace in the region as top priority. How challenging is it to get back the control of the south?
MK: In south Kashmir the number of militants has gone high as compared to previous years. The worrying factor is that most of them are locals. So the situation is difficult in terms of the number and motivation which is being done to involve youth in all this. So this is a priority for us to tackle.
CS: For almost one year now, the police force is on the ground which remains surcharged. Do you think the force is now overstretched and working beyond capacity?
MK: Hats off to J&K Police which has been facing the law and order, militancy, floods, earthquakes and helping out people, I can say that besides doing our professional job which includes prevention and detection of crime, maintenance of law and order or fighting militancy, we are involved in a lot of civic activities Every time the society is in crisis, the police are there to help them out.
CS: Any message for people and especially students?
MK: Let us be partners for peace. Let we live in a peaceful society where youngsters can pursue their career. Let everybody be a partner in peace; whether it be a police man, a journalist, a doctor, a lawyer, a student, lets all work for peace.
Students should only concentrate on their academics. To become a good human being and to contribute to the society, you need to have a good educational background. Without proper education, you just cannot excel in any sphere.