Friday, April 20, 2007

Complaining police

“2500 writ petitions are pending in the Punjab High Court against the police officers who wiped terrorism there. Same is happening in Kashmir,” said a police officer in a recent debate on human rights in a one-day workshop here in Srinagar. (Greater Kashmir March 21).
The title of the debate was also interesting. That “there should be equal condemnation of human rights violations by security forces and terrorists.”
There seems to be confusion among some police officers here about perception of the police and its powers. In such situation it is indispensable for the police officers particularly local police officers and the constables to understand their role in a conflict like that of Kashmir.
To begin with, in conflict areas the State gives enormous powers to the armed forces and police. Powers to kill, crush, raid, arrest and then there are laws enough to protect interests of the State and those who execute its orders.
In disturbed area any police person from a constable to SSP, wield powers that give impression that he is State unto itself and could do anything.
But the day the officer or a constable really starts thinking that he is State unto himself, things could go wrong.
He might abuse his powers and the State is there to pat him as long as it suits interests of the State. “Yes armed forces are doing commendable job,” the Chief Minister might say. And other Ministers will have also same comments about the armed forces.
New Delhi will be much more enthusiastic in its response. “We are not occupational forces,” Prime Minister will say. And when you have such kind of the backing, you might consider it an easy job to overrun anyone, whether the law permits it or not.
But situations don’t remain same. Iraq was yesterday battle of Ideas for Americans and the world, but today it is pure occupation for all including Americans. Taliban was anathema for the Western world but now in the same West there are countries who are for negotiation with Talibs. Yesterday troop deployment and draconian laws were no issues in Kashmir. Today they are major issues.
So once the State feels that it wants “demilitarization” it has to give some excuses to people why it wants demilitarization. The State will not say that the massive troop deployment was hurting its interests.
That it is in the interest of the State to withdraw troops. Because, to sell such an argument will be counter-productive. That too to the peoples of India whom so far it has described Kashmir as an ‘ideological battle” where India is fighting war against “Islamic terrorism.”
Thus it has to construct some other arguments but this time genuine ones. The arguments like all encounters are not genuine in Kashmir. That there are fake-encounters in the Kashmir.
Now don’t remain in impression that the State will take responsibility of these fake encounters. It won’t. Never on earth, it will condemn itself for the crimes committed by it through different agencies. If does so, in such case it will present itself as perpetuator of crimes against people. Thus, it won’t commit any such folly.
So it adopts different modus-operndi. That is, it arrests some constables (not all constables) some SPs (not all SPs) who in their tenure had acted as if they were the State and will project them as mere constables or SPs.
And will weave situation in such a way that everyone will get impression that only few constables and SPs were responsible for the crimes and the State has nothing to do with it.
And then the State will go on and will take actions against the “now erring constables and police officers” who few days ago “were getting rewards from the same State for those very deeds.” And the State will brazenly say whatever ‘now erring cops or officers have done” they have done that in their personal capacities.
It will argue that how the State was tough against those who commit human rights violations and in the same breath will say situation has apparently changed. So there is need of demilitarization.
The statecraft is such that journalists, columnists, thinkers, general people, academics all will curse the individuals responsible for the war crimes and forget the State. Then the same State arrests them, charge sheets them, engages best of lawyers ostensibly to book them and police officials feel that they have been wronged.
Those police officers, who feel they have been wronged or back stabbed by the State, should understand that the State could sacrifice over a dozen SPs and over 100 constables if it has to save its skin.
If Azad Sahib is threatening National Conference or the Peoples Democratic Party of exposing them or “bringing out cupboards” he will not expose the State but some police officers and thus exonerate the State which gives police and armed forces powers to do anything in the disturbed areas.
Moreover, if tomorrow, if for argument’s sake, Truth and Reconciliation Commission is established in Jammu and Kashmir, as has been demanded by Omer Abdullah, who will face the brunt? Only those officers who are the State subjects.
Unlike Punjab Kashmir is different, here alienation is so complete that those who swear by the constitution of India even accuse India of perpetuating genocide in Jammu and Kashmir. “You are committing genocide in Kashmir,” shouted MLA and former Home Minister Ali Muhammad Sagar in the State legislative Assembly recently. Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, the former chief minister in his tenure has never uttered a word against militants or Pakistan. Omer Abdullah describes Mushraff as straightforward who does not beat around the bush. He condemned arrest of Kashmiri youth in Delhi and described recovery of RDX from them as concocted stories of Delhi police.
This is the pro-India element in Kashmir. Imagine what might be the mental set-up of the masses. In such a situation if tomorrow truth and reconciliation commission sits here and indicts police officers of “crimes like faking encounters” what will be their position in the society, about which MJ Akbar writes that in 1990 they (Kashmiri people) were so sure of Azadi that they thought it is round the corner. The local police personnel or officers will face ostriacization, they will be looked down.
In Punjab only one police officer committed suicide. Only one. There are writ petitions in the Courts but they have been filed by the Human Rights Groups. In Kashmir when fake encounter killing surfaced, hundreds of people came out seeking whereabouts of their kith and kin. Knowing well what will be its consequences, they still came out. Imagine what will be situation when things will change and people will be asked by the same State (for arguments sake) to name those who have committed crimes or who have exceeded their brief.
So the moral of story is that police officers particularly local officers should act as police officers not as State.
Because State is different concept and it can give an individual a feeling that you are State for some time but the day it feels that for the reputation of the State it is necessary to sacrifice few police officers or policemen, it will in jiffy turn them mere police officers and policemen. This U-turn of the State might be surprising for the officers and they will shout! “2500 writ petitions are pending in the Punjab High Court against the police officers who wiped terrorism there. Same is happening in Kashmir.”
Now the topic of the debate that “There should be equal condemnation of human rights violations committed by security forces and terrorists.”
If you plead this argument then you are seeking platform with those people whom you describe “terrorists.” According to Oxford Advanced Learning Dictionary “terrorist” is a person who takes part in terrorism. So terrorist has no rights, he is not abide by any law or international convention like security forces.
In contrast security forces are law-abiding and whatever they are doing, they are doing it under the ambit of law. So why should then there be equal condemnation. Or what will you do in case some people will argue that “terrorists” are doing commendable job somewhere, should they be described as security forces? The questions need answer.