The recent incident of Police arresting the family members of three militants and the militants, in turn, abducting 11 kin of policemen brought Kashmir on a precipice with both the Police and militants asking the other parties not to involve the families of their rivals in the fight. Ajaz Rashid writes an in-depth report.

Kin of police personals who were abducted by militants in south Kashmir

When B Srinivas replaced Abdul Gani Mir as ADGP, CID, there were reports that Mir had been replaced after J&K Police succumbed to the pressure of abductions of policemen by the militants and released the father of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen operational commander Riyaz Naikoo.

Reacting to the news reports, J&K Police chief at that time, Sheesh Paul Vaid tweeted, “@JmuKmrPolice has been fighting a proxy war for decades which requires a lot of courage & determination of the men & officers of JKP. Speculative articles which undermine their morale should be avoided. @ndtv as regards to transfer, it’s routine matter & prerogative of the govt (sic).”

Within days, Vaid too was removed as the Director General of Police (DGP) and the charge was handed over to DG Prisons Dilbagh Singh till a permanent appointment was made.

The rolling of heads in the J&K Police got so messy that former chief minister and National Conference (NC) Vice President, Omar Abdullah criticised the timing of changing the DGP, saying there was no hurry to replace Vaid and the J&K Police could do without having to deal with the confusion of leadership.

“There was no hurry to replace @spvaid. He should have been changed only when a permanent arrangement had been worked out. @JmuKmrPolice has enough problems without having to deal with conthe fusion of leadership,” Omar wrote on Twitter soon after the government announced Vaid’s removal.

“Changing the DG is the prerogative of the administration but why a DG as a temporary arrangement? The current DG won’t know if he’s going to stay & others who would like his job will be trying to replace him. None of this is good for @JmuKmrPolice,” Omar tweeted.

The heads came to roll after the tit for tat between the Police and militants went wrong for the J&K Police with the security agencies not only getting the wrong press for setting the houses of militants afire but also ending up releasing the father of Hizb operational commander Riyaz Naikoo after militants abducted family members of J&K Police personnel.

The militants released 11 family members of policemen after the Police set free Hizbul Mujahideen Riyaz Naikoo’s father Asadullah Naikoo.

Police had detained Asadullah from his Awantipora home in south Kashmir, a day after militants killed four policemen in Shopian, around 60 km south of Srinagar.

In retaliation, the militants had abducted 11 family members of the policemen from villages of Pulwama, Anantnag, and Shopian districts of south Kashmir, and released them only after Police set Naikoo’s father free.

However, Police had maintained that Asadullah had been called for questioning and released.

In turn, Riyaz Naikoo in his audio message warned Police of dangerous consequences if they did not release the relatives of militants.

Earlier, the group also released videos of some family members of Police on social media before their release, in which they claimed that they were kidnapped following attacks on the houses of militants and their families by the Army, Special Operations Group of Police and J&K Police.

Having succumbed to the pressure of militants and also losing the moral argument of involving families, the development became embarrassing for the Government of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the newly-appointed J&K Governor, Satya Pal Malik ordered transfers and postings of both the head of the CID as well as the State Police chief.

However, Bharat Bhushan Babu of the PIB, MHA tweeted: “MHA has denied reports that it is unhappy with Jammu & Kashmir police. On more than one occasion, MHA has commended the work done by J&K police and the valiant sacrifices made by the men & officers of J&K police. There is no question of any dissatisfaction (sic).”

The development was embarrassing for the J&K Police with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) being proactive and warning the Police of not dragging the families of militants in the conflict.

LeT Jammu Kashmir chief, Mahmood Shah, in his message to J&K Police, said the honour and sanctity of the homes of the “martyrs and freedom fighters” was the same as Police.

“The respect and honor of mothers, sisters and daughters of freedom fighters and martyrs should be the same as you do to yours,” he said in his statement. “We have on numerous occasions warned the government forces and police personnel not to drag the families into the conflict but they continue to infiltrate our homes and compromise the honour of our families.”

The LeT statement said, “Bearing the oppression continuously is like aiding the oppressor. The responsibility of current situation lies on the shoulders of J&K Police and CID. Why is it that those who condemn the attacks on J&K Police do not speak up when the police personnel barge into the homes of martyrs and freedom fighters and mercilessly and indiscriminately beat the family members. The freedom fighters have picked up guns to counter the Indian atrocities and for their right to indigenous freedom. Anyone who walks on the path of Indian forces or acts as an aide to their vicious motives will bear the responsibility to his very own punishment.”

The LeT also condemned the “unjust arrest” of Shakeel Yusuf, the son of United Jehad Council supremo and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief, Syed Salahuddin by NIA and termed the act as “state terrorism”.

Among those who were abducted by the militants included Gowhar Ahmad Malik, the brother of DSP, Aijaz Ahmad Malik of Kathpora, Kulgam. Muhammad Shafi Mir, son of Abdul Salam Mir of Naman village of Pulwama and Sumar Ahmad Rather, son of Abdul Salam Rather from Yamrach Kulgam.  Mir, a driver by profession, has a brother working in J&K Police while Rather is the son of a policeman. An abducted policeman Shabir Ahmad Zargar of Kangan was also abducted. Two kin of policemen, Yasir Ahmad Bhat, son of ASI Bashir Ahmad Bhat of Wathoo and Adnan Ashraf Shah, the nephew of DSP Muhammad Syed Shah of Tharuna, were also abducted. Two more kin of policemen were abducted from Arwani area of Anantnag and two kin of policemen were abducted from Midoora and Pinglish, Tral.

Militants released all after sending across their message.

The abductions had been triggered after J&K Police detained the kin of Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo and two more militants Lateef Ahmad Dar and Adil Bashir Mir.

This forced the Police not only to release the father of Naikoo but also two brothers and father of Dar, and father and uncle of Mir.

According to locals, the abductions are seen as a reprisal of detaining the kin of militants by J&K Police and setting two houses of militant families afire in Shopian allegedly by Army.

However, a Police official said he sees these abductions as a reaction of NIA’s detention of HM chief, Syed Salahuddin’s civilian son.

Former chief minister and NC Vice President Omar Abdullah had termed the abductions of 11 kin of policemen as “worrisome”.

Omar tweeted: “11 abductions! This is a very worrying reflection of the situation in the valley. What’s worse is the selective outrage — people/leaders who are so vocal about alleged security force excesses are silent about these abductions (sic).”

He wrote, “I don’t condone any families being harassed but how about a word of condemnation for the harassment and worse still the kidnapping of families of Jammu Kashmir Police personnel.”

After the mounting attacks on policemen across Kashmir, J&K Police had issued an advisory to its personnel last April to not visit their homes “for the next few months”, especially those who live in south Kashmir.

According to J&K Police, 27 policemen have been killed in militant attacks this year.

However, the killings of the policemen have not generated as much debate as the abduction of their kin of late but so has the harassment of the family members of militants allegedly by Police and other security agencies.

In such circumstances, would the latest incident of arrests of family members of militants and the abductions of kin of policemen be the last such instance or would the situation continue to deteriorate in Kashmir in the same manner.

Whatever be the case, J&K Police needs to ensure that their personnel do not get involved in the harassment of family members of militants and other rights violations they are often accused of.

If they don’t step up as a force that needs to be disciplined, the cat and mouse game would continue to be played and in the process, many innocent people would get killed.

In the words of the Hizb operational commander, Naikoo, if J&K Police continues to bend the law, “It would be tit for tat.”

 

Box

“@JmuKmrPolice has been fighting a proxy war for decades which requires a lot of courage & determination of the men & officers of JKP. Speculative articles which undermine their morale should be avoided. @ndtv as regards to transfer, it’s routine matter & prerogative of the govt”

Sheesh Paul Vaid

 

“There was no hurry to replace @spvaid. He should have been changed only when a permanent arrangement had been worked out. @JmuKmrPolice has enough problems without having to deal with confusion of leadership”

Omar Abdullah

 

“MHA has denied reports that it is unhappy with Jammu & Kashmir police. On more than one occasion, MHA has commended the work done by J&K police and the valiant sacrifices made by the men & officers of J&K police. There is no question of any dissatisfaction.”

Ministry of Home Affairs

 

“The respect and honor of mothers, sisters and daughters of freedom fighters and martyrs should be the same as you do to yours. We have on numerous occasions warned the government forces and police personnel not to drag the families into the conflict but they continue to infiltrate our homes and compromise the honour of our families.”

Mahmood Shah (Lashkar-e-Toiba’s J&K Chief)

 

“It would be tit for tat.”

Riyaz Naikoo (Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Operational Commander)

 

“11 abductions! This is a very worrying reflection of the situation in the valley. What’s worse is the selective outrage — people/leaders who are so vocal about alleged security force excesses are silent about these abductions. I don’t condone any families being harassed but how about a word of condemnation for the harassment and worse still the kidnapping of families of Jammu Kashmir Police personnel.”

Omar Abdullah

 

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