SRINAGAR: A police constable Nazir Mohammad (name changed) hails from a village in Pulwama, which is considered a hotbed of militancy.
He is among thousands of policemen whose job is to curb the protests that have been going on in Kashmir since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, on July 8.
Tall and brawny Nazir was drawn from Zeewan Police Lines, and deployed in old Srinagar and parts of uptown during the past 40 days.
His experience of policing during the 2008 and 2010 mass-agitations makes him state that the public mood is different this time. And it is this “public anger” that has convinced his family to ask him to resign.
“My family has been insisting me to quit the department because of the public anger against police. They are quite worried about me. I conveyed to my parents that I will take a premature retirement in 2018, after I complete my 20 years of service,” said Nazir, who got appointed in 1999 when he was yet to complete his college.
Police, for its ‘anti-people’ behaviour, has been the target of public rage during the ongoing uprising. Several incidents of attacks on policemen and their residences have taken place lately, even as the pro-freedom leadership too has been trying to single out the officers accused of excessive use of force.
A police officer openly confessed that the CRPF men deployed in south Kashmir harassed women at Sangam, Anantnag, after his house was attacked in Tral village, the hometown of Burhan.
Protesters at Hydepora, Srinagar, tried to detain a superintendent of police returning from his office, but his personal security officer ‘rescued’ him by describing him as a doctor.
Another police officer had to shift his vehicles after protesters attacked his house with stones.
Nazir blames “some men among the department” and the CRPF for creating problems for the policemen.
“The SHO of a police station will never want the situation in his jurisdiction to deteriorate. But CRPF and some policemen fired shells and bullets,” he said.
“I offered prayers in the interiors of downtown without changing my uniform during protests, and it was not an issue for anyone. We are law abiding and we don’t have to behave the way protesters do,” he said “We need to have patience to handle situation on ground.”
Recently, Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani publicly named two officers who were accused of committing “atrocities” on people in south Kashmir. And his call prompted the family of one of the officers to approach the veteran pro-freedom leader for apology.
Nazir believes that naming officials would not help unless the pro-India people and parties join the fight for resolution of Kashmir issue.
“If you caste vote, you choose them (pro-India politicians). So, people too are to be blamed. But policemen like me don’t vote because we are always on duty,” he said.
About the demand for freedom in Kashmir, Nazir said: “who does not want Azadi?”
“But for that people have to stand united and follow the religion. Currently, people leading the protests and hold flags don’t even offer prayers,” he said.
Another constable, who was drawn from Jammu region, also sought to distance himself from the ‘anti-people’ behaviour of the policemen.
“I allowed people to move without imposing restrictions in Batamaloo area. But the next day, we faced stones from the same area,” he said, while sitting idle in uptown Srinagar where protesters had gone on what he described as a “break”.
“All fingers in a hand are not uniform. Similarly, not every in the police department is same. It is usually the CRPF men and outsiders who damage the houses and beat up the people,” he said, believing that the paramilitary cannot afford to be lenient either.
“They can be dubbed as sympathisers of people,” he said.
His colleague added: “It is a tightrope walk for us. Actually, we are sandwiched.”
The ongoing protests, he said, would not achieve anything, as New Delhi is “unconcerned” about the protests.