Srinagar: Mounting attacks and abductions of policemen from their homes in Kashmir have prompted the government to chalk out a plan to secure police personnel.
Right now at its infancy, the plan is to establish “guest houses” for policemen in district police lines, besides separate residential colonies in safe zones.
The residential colonies, the proposal for which has been cleared by home ministry, soon after Governor Satya Pal Malik took over reins of Jammu and Kashmir last month, would be a blueprint of colonies meant for defence personnel in India. Currently, residences of policemen are scattered across the Valley and that has made them prone to militant attacks.
A top government source pleading anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to media confirmed the development. He explained that the guest houses would allow families of policemen to visit them there, rather than policemen visiting their homes in areas where they are susceptible to militant attacks.
On Monday, the Governor confirmed the plan to establish “guest houses” in police lines in an interview to a national daily, “so that families can come and visit them (policemen) there.”
“So they [policemen] don’t have to go to the mohalla (locality); if they go, they will go with security,” Malik added.
In the preceding two months, militants have intensified attacks and rampantly raided houses of police personnel, especially in south Kashmir. The count of policemen slain this year stands at 37. Last week, three policemen including two special police officers (SPOs) were shot dead by militants who stormed into their homes. The killings happened weeks after militants abducted eleven family members and relatives of policemen from their homes in a tit-for-tat move against police picking up their family members.
Last week’s attack resulted in a resignation spree of SPOs, who are personnel hired on a consolidated sum of Rs 6,000 per month. It prompted the police to issue an advisory to its men to notvisit their homes in south Kashmir. Government authorities also suspended internet services in some south Kashmir parts to curb circulation of videos through which SPOs were announcing their resignations.
The advisory, an official said, is an official norm, but in practice it is “impossible” to stop policemen from visiting their families. Policemen go to their homes in “disguise”, he said, but sometimes they get noticed.
“Right now it is good to stay away as the situation demands so,” said a police officer who hails from south Kashmir. “A residential colony or some safe facility is required until the threat subsides.”
But many argue that residential colonies may “isolate” policemen from the society they are ingrained in. “We need to tackle the current situation by looking for a sensible solution, which is reducing tension between security forces and the masses, rather than relying on safe facilities,” another official added.
Normally, policemen in Kashmir are granted only a nominal vacation, given that they have to be on standby in case of any eventuality. To cite an example, policemen worked for months together without going home to curb protests during the public uprising that followed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in 2016.
“The situation (now) is almost the same. Many families have asked their sons to stay at their place of duty instead of coming home,” a policeman said.