Pro-Militant Sentiment Making Cops To Desert Ranks?

Srinagar—Top brass of the Jammu and Kashmir Police Thursday said the pro-militant sentiment prevalent among a section of Kashmiris could be the reason why some policemen have deserted their ranks to join militants disregarding though the issue was not a “major concern yet”.

“The society of which we are a part, is bound to have an effect on us,” SP Vaid, the Jammu and Kashmir director general of police, told Kashmir Observer. “Police have a great reputation in terms of performing their professional duties.”

The DGP said police are fighting militancy ‘bravely’ and that will continue. “Some of them are not completely impervious to changes within the society,” he argued.

He said the issue was not a “major concern yet” but admitted that the trend could be reflective of a strong pro-militant sentiments among a section of Kashmiris.

“As of now, this is not a major concern but it is still a thing to be cautious about,” Vaid said, adding the incidents were not a trend or phenomenon.

A report published in a Delhi-based newspaper suggested Kashmir’s home-grown militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, was trying to lure police personnel to fill its dwindling ranks and armoury after a string of reverses since last year, officials told a national newspaper quoting intelligence reports.

Out of three police deserters this year, at last two are known to have joined the Hizbul Mujahideen with their official arms and ammunition, the officials added.

The latest intelligence inputs were shared with security forces operating in Kashmir in October.

Earlier in May this year, some nine policemen had joined the militant ranks since December 2016, had quoted IGP Kashmir, Munir Khan.

“While the number of youngsters joining militants in the valley has been on the rise since 2014, policemen fleeing with weapons have become an alarming trend,” the IGP had said.

Senior Superintendent Baramulla, Imtiyaz Hussain, dismissed the desertions as a ‘trend’. “When you’ve thousands of people queuing up for police jobs, you could very well disregard it as generalisation,” he said.

Such desertions of police personnel have obviously become a source of deep worry for the security establishment in Kashmir.

Some security experts put this trend down in part to the aggressive online propaganda launched by the new tech-savvy breed of largely local militants.

“Social media has undoubtedly been a contributing factor to propagate radicalism among the youth,” said a police officer of the rank of SP wishing not to be quoted. “The pictures, videos uploaded by the militants glamorise jihad, ensuring that a steady trickle of the impressionable youth are taken in and join militancy.”

“And sometimes a few cops also fall prey to the propaganda,” he said.

Others, however, don’t give much currency to the “online propaganda”, blaming instead the recruitment of Special Police Officers, who are later regularised and promoted as constables.

“Many of the SPOs are recruited for their background. It could be for their links with militants, or for sharing some sensitive information, or for being important in intelligence gathering,” said another officer. “And it’s these men, torn between two sides, who sometimes slip back into their old life.”

Kashmir has seen a groundswell of civilian anger since last July when then Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces.

The killing sparked months of violent protests that left nearly 100 people dead, most of them in retaliation by security forces.

The government responded with the muscular response, stepping up counter-insurgency operations that have led to the killing of at least 170 militants in the valley this year.

Hizbul Mujahideen is one of the most affected outfits, losing several top leaders and many cadres in encounters with security forces.

Officials said, killing of militants also means loss of weapons for the outfits and hence the ploy to lure police personnel with arms and ammunition.



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