They Are Fighting A Jehad As Well, A Jehad For Bread And Butter
4 September 2000
The Indian Express
Wadura (Sopore): The martyr''s graveyard in this dusty North Kashmir village is unique. It has broken the principle and even expanded the definition of a martyr. Alongside 10 militants and four villagers, two brothers killed by the militants are also buried. Both of them -Bashir Ahmad and Naseer Ahmad - were policeman. But even here, where these men lie side by side in death nothing has lessened the gulf between policemen who die in uniform while fighting militants and those Kashmiris who are killed by the security forces or police in the valley. ''When Bashir died, we were prepared to bury him in a different place but the villagers did not allow it. They dug a grace in the village martyr''s graveyard and we had no choice,'' said Mohammad Jamal Bhat, father of the two slain policeman. ''They too died in the jehad. Theirs was a jehad for nafus (holy fight to earn bread and butter).'' In Kashmir, dying as a policeman, especially fighting militants, is a complicated curse. In the early ''90s, there were no clear dictates not to attend the funerals of those killed by militants, the families generally do not talk about their dead in public, and then they blame ''fate'' for the tragedy. Unlike troops from the Army and other security forces, who are usually from other states of the country, the men of the Jammu and Kashmir police are often local. Thus a policeman''s father or a relative may be a militant. A cousin of the two policeman killed here, Ghulam Nabi explained that they were allowed to be buried in the martyr''s graveyard only because their family has given a lot of sacrifice for the cause of the ''movement'' as well. ''We have lost at least a dozen cousins and other close relatives in these 10 years,'' he said. While a soldier killed in Kashmir will be given military burial honours, a lowly policeman''s death may bring embarrassment and fear rather than glory to his family. In many instances, a family will request that the burial be kept a low key affair, with no 21 gun salute for him. Unlike those who joined the counter insurgency wing of the police, Special Operations Group (SOG), and were killed in action, a majority of the cops die in roadside militant attacks, grenade blasts or improvised explosive device explosions. Whenever militants seek to attract special attraction, they choose a crowded chowk or road in uptown Srinagar, where ordinary policeman are likely to be on routine patrol. They become easy prey for sensational slaying. And unlike SOG men who are mentally prepared for such attacks, they do not even think to shift their families to safer places. ''We are fortunate that till today the militants have not attacked our families of our men as they did in Punjab,'' said Director General of J&K Police Gurbachan Jagat. ''But we are ready for any such eventuality. As the police get more and more involved in counter militancy here, such attacks are inevitable.'' For Kashmiri policeman it is ''extremely difficult and dangerous to opt for SOG. Though it makes us eligible to get an out of way promotion, the risk of being a militant target increases automatically,'' said a local police officer. ''They have to immediately shift their families to safer places,'' such as sanitised belts like Shivpora or Government residential colonies which have a security cover. Infact fighting militancy is no noble cause for most of the policeman who have joined the force entirely to earn their bread and butter. ''What to do otherwise? For the poor getting a job in civil departments is impossible,'' said a villager Lal din Rather of Bandipore. Rather who lost one of his two policeman sons in a landmine blast detonated by militants in Anantnag district two years ago, is aspiring to get his other unemployed son recruited. Infact a majority of Kashmiri Police officers at the forefront of counter militancy offensives are those who have been recruited only after their police officer fathers were killed by militants. A young subdivisional police officer in Srinagar, Tanveer Jeelani is always after militants. Being posted in Khanyar, in the heart of downtown Srinagar, this officer had been attacked more than a dozen times. Jeelani''s father, a police officer was shot dead inside his office in early days of the militants. ''For a Kashmiri, to fight militants who are generally his peers, requires strong motivation,'' said a senior police officer, ''And if your father is killed, you are more willing to take the risk, than if you are only fighting for bread and butter.''