Politicising Security in J&K is a lethal preoccupation
by Jaibans Singh on 04 Sep 2012 14 Comments
The government of Jammu and Kashmir has been quick to shoot down a request by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) to move two battalions (2000 troops) out of the State. “We have written to the Jammu and Kashmir government requesting them to relieve the two battalions, but they are not willing to let them go. They say security will be compromised if the forces are sent back,” said a senior CRPF officer, as quoted in the Indian Express. “We had received a request from the CRPF that they wanted to remove two battalions from the Valley for Naxal affected areas in Chhattisgarh. But after considering all aspects of security, we rejected their request,” said a top official of the government of Jammu and Kashmir, as quoted in The Tribune.


Mr. B.R. Sharma, Principal Secretary (Home), Government of J&K, added, “We will discuss the issue with the Ministry of Home Affairs and then take a decision” (Indian Express). The fact that the State government is ready to take the issue right up to the level of the Union Home Minister indicates that it will leave no stone unturned to retain the CRPF forces within the Valley; such is the real need it feels for retention of the forces.


Contrarily, even as the principal secretary was preparing his case for retention of troops in the Kashmir valley, his Chief Minister was busy pursuing his all time favourite demand for thinning of the security umbrella in the State. During his speech on an occasion as important as Independence Day, Omar Abdullah considered it befitting to refer to his demand for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the State.


Speaking at Bakshi Stadium in Srinagar, he rued what he termed as the slow pace of dialogue with respect to the issue of partial revocation of AFSPA, and went on to express the hope that the Act would be revoked during his tenure. As if this was not enough, on August, 28, almost contiguous with the categorical rejection by his Principal Secretary (Home) to CRPF troops moving out of the state, Omar reiterated his posture on the subject of AFSPA at a public rally in Rajpora, District Pulwama: “The state would witness revocation of AFSPA during my government’s tenure and the benefits of peace would percolate all across,” he said (quoted by some valley based newspapers).


Is one to understand from this statement that AFSPA is coming in the way of percolation of the “benefits of peace” to the common man? One always had reason to believe that peace in the valley is an offshoot of the relentless efforts of security forces with active support of the people and under the legal protection provided by AFSPA. In case the Chief Minister thinks otherwise he should explain his reasons for the same and elaborate his views on the relationship between “benefits of peace” and AFSPA.


One wonders which of the two diagrammatically opposing contentions of the government is right; revocation of AFSPA and thinning of troops as demanded by the Chief Minister in person, or retention of troops as being energetically pursued by the home department of the government of J&K? Now, with pressure mounting, one would really not like to have the Chief Minister coming on air or Twitter to say that his home department had erred in its assessment and there is no objection to removal of troops! What the Nation would be looking for is facts to support arguments, not indulgence in fatuous politics. In case the State Home Ministry got its facts wrong, two CRPF battalions should be de-inducted forthwith; no politics, only action.


Currently, 52 battalions of the CRPF are deployed across the Valley; 26 in Srinagar, Budgam and Ganderbal districts. These troops are mainly assisting J&K Police in law and order duties related to riot control during the hartals, bandhs and stone pelting that regularly take place in the Kashmir Valley. The spirited case being put forth by the state government to retain the entire strength of the force indicates two things. First, the government, despite two consecutive peaceful summers, is still unsure that peace has come to stay in the Valley and harbours an apprehension that things can go wrong, that too, in a jiffy. Second, the J&K Police cannot take over all law and order duties as it is lacking in manpower, training, weapons, and above all, the motivation to go it alone.


It would not be too impertinent to suggest that the political leadership of Jammu and Kashmir is playing a double game. The leadership is certain that the Centre will not agree to troop reduction, so is it deriving political mileage from the situation? Is the demand for revocation of AFSPA and withdrawal of forces nothing more than political posturing? After all, even a novice can understand that two peaceful tourist seasons are not reason enough to declare that the situation has improved enough to bring about changes in the security paradigm as is being suggested by the Chief Minister.


A host of parameters and data have to be considered while reaching a conclusion of this significance. Yet security is being subjected to politics; this is a lethal preoccupation which must cease forthwith. It is time for the state government to come clean on its security policy and give a comprehensive security plan to be applied in the event of enabling legislations being modified or the security paradigm being changed.


The author is Editor, Defence Info.com 

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