Alarm and despair spread among the Jammu and Kashmir policemen and their families after a series of abductions of relatives of policemen in south Kashmir by suspected militants on Thursday night.
The abductions were triggered apparently in response to the police detaining for questioning the family members of some Hizbul Mujahideen militants including those of operational commander Riyaz Naikoo on Wednesday night. A couple of families of militants in Shopian alleged that their houses were ransacked and set ablaze allegedly by security forces on Wednesday night hours after four policemen were killed by militants in the district.
While the state police, army and the Central Reserve Police Force collectively fight militancy in Kashmir but the former come from the same social milieu as local militants and hence are isolated in the society. Policemen and their families are also more vulnerable than the army and paramilitary men who stay in well-guarded camps.
While police officers are putting up a brave front, they concede that the lower ranks are jittery following the abductions. Some 12 persons mostly relatives of policemen have been abducted in the four south Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Ananatnag and Kulgam.
“My men are extremely disturbed. There is a fear perception about our families. This should happen neither from our side nor from theirs,” said an SHO rank officer in central Kashmir who has many policemen from south Kashmir under his command.
“If families get involved, there will be chaos. Overall both sides will get affected. Many of my friends and colleagues are contemplating to migrate from south Kashmir. Some are even thinking of leaving their jobs,” he said.
A mid-ranking level police officer of south Kashmir choose not to speak to HT, even off the record, saying he is doing it “for his life”.
Another deputy superintendent of police-level officer said that the “situation was grim as it was an open war against local policemen”. “Many of our special police officers (SPOs) were threatened and attacked despite their announcements that they are leaving the jobs. It is an open war against police but many of our colleagues does not understand this. That is why many of us are dying,” he said.
The brother of a police constable working in armed police said that both sides have erred by targeted families of each other. “What will happen now? My mother is so worried,” he said.
“This is madness on part of militants but policemen have been equally foolish to round up the families of militants during the night and ransacking their households,” he said.
“My brother is depressed. He can’t leave the job. He has a wife and a child to take care of,” he said, demanding separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik should intervene to prevent situation from going out of hand.
Family of a constable living Srinagar who is posted in south Kashmir’s Pulwama have asked him to come home following the killings of four policemen in Shopian on Wednesday. “We will get him home on leave. He is ill and if he does not return, we will all get into depression,” said a family member.
The mother of a 34-year-old police constable has left it to fate. “What can be done? Life and death is in the hands of God. Our poverty has forced him to do the job. He is still ready to leave the job but we don’t have a bank balance to sustain ourselves,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes.