The state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is undergoing a metamorphosis. The two decade long shadow of terrorism is waning slowly but surely and people are looking towards what is commonly termed as “normalcy”. There is talk of a change in the security paradigm commensurate with the changing situation on ground; more responsibility is being sought to be placed on JK Police with the Army and Paramilitary forces fading gradually into the background. This can be possible only if the JK police musters the will and the determination to rise up to the occasion and take on the law and order as well as security responsibilities – by no means an easy task.
Unfortunately, the manner in which crisis situations are handled by the police point towards a distinct lack of confidence in the ability of the force. Instances like the recent alleged death in police custody of a National Conference member, Sayeed Mohammad Yousuf Shah, cause a severe setback to the credibility of the force. At the very outset the issue has gained a political tenor thus reducing the police to the role of a mute spectator. The Chief Minister, followed by the State Home Secretary, have come on air to give statements for an incident that occurred under jurisdiction of the police. It is the public relations machinery of the police which should have given the initial report. At best, the Director General Police (DGP) could have clarified core issues. The job of the Chief Minister should have started only after a full enquiry had been conducted. Such instances dent the image of the police and put brakes on the process of reform and modernisation.
Policing in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has some unique manifestations which go beyond the ordinary. These require special infrastructure, special skills and the will to walk the extra mile. Traditionally, the people of all three regions are docile, peace loving and law abiding. Fortunately, they have managed to maintain their values civilization and culture despite having been subjected to unspeakable terrorism generated violence. As a result, the State is comparatively free of vicious law and order problems as are being faced by other cities and states in India. The number of burglaries, murders, rapes, cases of road rage, accidents, killing of old people, suicides etc, are very less in J&K as compared to many other states in India. Hence, basic law and order, which is the main job of the police is the least of the problems that JK Police has to face.
The main challenge emerges from politics of agitation, internal security requirements and crisis situations. The fractured polity of the State, sadly, has the capacity to engineer riot like situations and marked violence that the police is required to handle before politics can take over. In this regard, the Para-military forces have been of great assistance to the police over the last many years. With regard to foreign sponsored terrorism, the army has been assisting the police and will continue to curb infiltration attempts along the line of control. However, counter terrorism operations in the hinterland will have to be conducted by the Police. Thus, to be looked upon as an independent entity the police has to gear up to take on responsibility to maintain law and order, deal with political unrest and fight terrorism in the hinterland – a tall order indeed.
Is the JK Police building a capacity to meet this challenge? This is a closely guarded secret since the basic transparency that is required to generate a debate and some intellectual discussion on the subject is not forthcoming. Actions being taken to build capacity are not in the public domain. Not much is known about the route of modernisation and reform that the force intends to take. Information is sporadic and rigidly controlled.
Take for instance the official website of JK Police. It is a sincere effort but sadly lacking in information. It does not even have details of the public relations structure which can be approached by the media. In the “Contact” page of the website the telephone number is of the Police Headquarters, which is akin to the telephone number of the DGP. The DGP cannot be expected to deal with everything. Giving the number of a PR officer along with an E-mail ID would be more professional and appropriate. Then there are two information pages – “News Bulletin and Press Room” which have similar content. Further, the press release for the day is carried, but the archives for 2011 cannot be opened since the facility caters on for the year 2009 and 2010. There is no data base of timelines which can facilitate analysis, no input of the force structure, nothing on perspective planning and modernisation plans etc. One has not heard of a think tank working to generate debates and find solutions to the massive challenge that the force is to be designed to address. With this structure one wonders as to how the force intends to build a dynamic image.
The people’s aspirations for true “normalcy” can be met only if the JK Police is energised to take on the challenge of security in its entirety. This is also linked with the issue of repeal of enabling legislations like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Area Act etc. So long as the Police requires the support of the Army and the Para-military forces these legislations cannot be repealed. The ball can be set rolling only after the JK police comes out on its own, not much can be achieved by putting the cart before the horse.