Counter-Insurgency in Kashmir

Arup Kumar Sen

Encounter killings have become a part of everyday life in Kashmir. Very recently, on December 15, 2018, "seven civilians, including two minors, were killed when security forces opened fire on protestors after an encounter in which three militants and an Armyman were killed" in Pulwama district of South Kashmir (The Indian Express, December 16, 2018).

The Special Police Officers (SPOs) represent an important force in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir. Shortly atfter the killing of the militant leader, Burhan Wani, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs sanctioned the "engagement of additional ten thousand (10,000) Special Police Officers. (SPOs) in the Police Department of Jammu and Kashmir" in September, 2015. It is reported in the media that in the past "many surrendered militants were recruited as SPOs, who gained notoriety for allegedly committing excesses in anti-militancy operations". The State has a love and hate relationship with the SPOs. According to a report (The Times of India, July 16, 2018), "Jammu and Kashmir government has ordered screening of Special Police Officers (SPOs) engaged by the police for counter-terrorism in the last six years, following intelligence reports about their links with terror groups".

In the wake of recent killings of SPOs by the militants, the governor of Jammu and Kashmir, in his interview (The Economic Times, September 24, 2018), stated that "there is a long queue of men wanting to join as SPOs". Amid reports in the media that some SPOs have resigned in Jammu and Kashmir after the recent killings, the home ministry stated that "these reports are based on false propaganda by mischievous elements".

A performance review of over 30,000 SPOs started in Kashmir after the state home department issued an order (July 12, 201:8), seeking reports about the counter-insurgency work of the SPOs from District Level Committees constituted "to assess and screen the SPOs". To put it in the words of the order of the State Home Department: "The Committees shall submit their reports to the Home Department, within a period of 01 month from the date of issue of the order, with a copy to the DGP. The DGP shall take the requisite steps to weed out the unsuitable and undeserving SPOs..." What kind of work is expected from the SPOs was made clear in a communication of the Ministry of Home Affairs (J & K Division), Government of India, dated January 5, 2016: "...existing SPOs should be put through a screening process so that out of 25,474 SPOs engaged in J & K presently, only those SPOs who are really useful in dealing with the separatist forces/insurgency in the State are retained".

The SPOs in Jammu and Kashmir were so long engaged on a monthly remuneration not exceeding Rs 6,000. By a recent order of the state Home Department, the remuneration of the SPOs has been increased with effect from September 26, 2018. The minimum "monthly honorarium" of SPOs has been fixed at Rs 6,000. After the completion of 5th year and 15th years of service, one will get Rs 9,000 and Rs 12,000 respectively.

Nobody knows their mental universe of pleasure and pain. However, it is beyond doubt that the SPOs have become an organic part of the "Prose of Counter-Insurgency" in Kashmir.

Vol. 51, No.27, Jan 6 - 12, 2019