Crime? Unheard Of In Peaceful Drass
30 July 2005
The Indian Express
Drass: When Drass remembered the Kargil war on its sixth anniversary on July 26 with massive military fanfare, it was a day to mark another hallmark too. This remote hilly cluster of villages in the shadow of the Tiger Hill - the epitome of a two-month-long Indo-Pak war - has emerged as a zero crime area. There has not been a single case of theft reported in all these years. Though two days before the anniversary, a group of four men did steal scraps and iron rods piled up in an abandoned Army post, but they were all non-locals. In fact, nobody in Drass even knows about this case which was solved soon with the arrest of the thieves, who had come all the way from Jammu and even Bihar. Three of the four thieves - Kartar Chand, Ratan Lal and Vishnu Das - are from Jammu and the fourth, Tun Tun Prasad, is from Bihar. 'They had come to Drass a year ago and they deal in scrap. A few days before their arrest, they came upon an abandoned Army gun post at Shimsha, 5 km from Drass,' says Station House Officer (SHO) Muhammad Yousuf. 'They took some discarded iron rods from the post. They returned the next day, again to steal, but were caught by the Army.' 'The police mainly has protocol function in Drass,' says SHO Yousuf. 'Our job,' he adds, 'is to ferry VIPs to and from Sonamarg - the last village of Kashmir Valley before the perilous climb up the Zojilla Pass into the Kargil district.' The elderly Hashmatullah, a head constable, who has spent a major part of his career in Drass, doesn't even remember coming across any criminal incident like theft or quarrels, leave alone rape or murder. But now, with the arrest of the four thieves in years, the dimly lit solitary jail room is finally occupied with three partially-visible figures sitting huddled, staring out from behind the iron bars. But the novel experience of having its first inmates in years hasn't changed the serene atmosphere of the police station. No policeman has any weapon, not even the baton: an absolute contrast with the neighbouring localities of the Kashmir Valley. The relaxed atmosphere doesn't prevail only inside the jail premises, but is in ample evidence across the humming long stretch of Drass Bazar. Not only policemen, even Army personnel move about without weapons. The only place where they wield them are the few checkposts on the road. Army Gypsys carrying unarmed personnel move freely and without any armed escort. Lt Col Harinder Jasrotia, who never travelled without heavy protection when he was posted at Baramulla town in Kashmir, moves in a Sumo at 9 pm. There is no threat of firing or a mine blast weighing on his head. 'Except for shelling from across the border, which too has ended after the LoC ceasefire between India and Pakistan, there is nothing to worry about at the local level,' he says. Meet the Drassies and they bear out Jasrotia. The insulation of the people from the Kashmir situation is astounding. But for the Kargil war and the subsequent intermittent shelling, the people are dimly conscious of the violence of the nature prevailing in the Valley or its political dimensions. 'People in Kargil are docile and peace-loving. There is a minor escalation in crime in summers and for that also, outsiders are primarily responsible,' says Superintendent of Police, Kargil, Danish Rana, speaking for the entire district. 'The police in Kargil are mainly concerned with tackling road accident cases,' he adds. However, around 20 years ago, says Muhammad Shafi, a local political activist of National Conference, people in Drass were famous for litigation. 'There used to be land disputes and people were obsessed with court cases. Now, with some literacy, this tendency has died down,' he says. There is an endearing harmlessness about the behaviour of Drassies which, even the violence of the scale of the Kargil war, has left untouched. Also, people here are not particularly politically-inclined. 'Political loyalties in Drass do not run deep. People usually support the party on what it does for the development of the town and not on any political slogan,' says Muhammad Shafi.