January 2008 News

Terror Fight Sets Off Khaki Craze In Kashmir

17 January 2008
Telegraph India

Srinagar: Forget the stereotype of the Kashmiri as shawl seller. Two of every 100 males in the state is now a policeman - a ratio seven times the national average. The fight against militancy has swelled the ranks of Jammu and Kashmir police at such a rate that one in every 10 families has a member in the force. For a comparison, one in 48 families in Punjab has a serving member in the armed forces. In the last two militancy-hit decades, Jammu and Kashmir police’s numbers have nearly tripled to stand at well over 70,000 now. Add the 35,000 special police officers (SPOs) - the temporary personnel working for Rs 3,000 a month - and the figure reaches 1.05 lakh. Another 15,000 men are likely to be added to the ranks in the next couple of years to allow the state to take over counter-insurgency operations from the army and paramilitary. Militancy, which has claimed 1,400 policemen, has not deterred the youth from seeking police jobs. There is a political fallout for the government: the rising number of households with their men in the police - who are increasingly carrying out counter-insurgency operations - means many families are turning against militants. The official figure of militants from the state is now 2,000 - two per cent of the police. Jammu and Kashmir has an estimated population of 1.1 crore, and just over half would be male. “In a force of 1,05,000 personnel, around one lakh are men, which means one in every 50 males in the state are in the police, or ten per cent of the families have one or more members in the force,’’ a senior officer said. “The police-population ratio in the state is perhaps the highest in the world and with more men joining, it will rise further.” Against a countrywide police-population ratio of 1:728 (including both males and females in the population figure), the state’s ratio is 1:157 (excluding the SPOs). If the 35,000 SPOs are included, there is one policeman for every 100 people here. There are thousands of others in the army and the paramilitary. In Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the police are a mere 7,500 for around 40 lakh people - a ratio of 1:533. UN norms say the ratio should be at least 1:450 and the figure in most western countries lies between 1:250 and 1:500. Delhi police, which claims to be the largest metropolitan police in the world, has less than 60,000 personnel against a population of 1.6 crore (1: 270). “No doubt there’s been a phenomenal growth in the police but our state faces unique problems which justify the numbers. You have to deal with militancy, crime, social issues and traffic accidents,’’ Javed Mukhdoomi, inspector-general (headquarters), said. “You need a lot of manpower because the role of the police is growing in anti-militancy operations. Then you have to provide security to protected persons and perform a lot of other duties.” Civil rights groups, however, have been protesting. “The government is militarising the police, who have been transformed from a law-keeping force to a counter- insurgency one,’’ said Khurram Parvez, coordinator of the Coalition of Civil Societies. “The police are not engaged in normal policing here, which is the reason the crime graph is going up. This (the heavy recruitment) stems from a policy of engaging the youth to wean them away from the separatist struggle. It will have an adverse impact on society.”

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