Kashmiri Govt Servants Are Shaken, But Unlikely To Stir Up A Storm
The Quint spoke to several government servants to get a sense of how they feel post the revocation of Article 370.
Usman Lone (name changed to protect identity) is a man of quick wit and statuesque presence.
“The veteran stone-pelters have all retired. It’s a new crop now. And let me tell you, most of them are drug addicts. These 12-13-year-old boys have suddenly found power. After all, where and when else can you stop your teacher on the road and get him to do uthak-baithak because there are complaints against him?”
His wit, however, is not a good veneer to hide his sadness.
In his forties now, Usman is a successful entrepreneur with outlets in both uptown and downtown Srinagar, as well as in Anantnag.
His brother is an officer in J&K police. “We used to be called traitors at family gatherings due to my brother’s job. Our family took every such insult on our chin. Today, we do not know what to tell those relatives.”
Usman’s business soars each year during the wedding season (summers) in Kashmir but the civil curfew since 5 August has impacted his finances significantly. He shares with a smile, “I don’t even have the luxury of complaining.”
There are several Usmans in Kashmir Valley who feel let down by Indian government’s unilateral decision to revoke Articles 370 and 35A and bifurcate J&K into two Union territories. They also fear for their safety.
Rashid (name changed) is a government official and has a post-graduate son. “I am scared of coming to office. These young boys have lost all respect for the elderly.”
His colleague, Munir (name changed), chimes in, “Last week I was stopped by a group of six boys in Khaniyar. They wanted to set fire to my scooty for defying the hartaal. Fortunately, one of them recognised me and told the others to let me go. As I crossed barely 200 metres, I was stopped at a CRPF checkpost. I handed my keys over to them and said, since the boys could not set fire to my scooty, why don’t you do it? They laughed and let me go.”
Waheed (name changed), an SPO with the J&K Police, shares, “The manner in which this decision was taken and implemented has hurt us. Just imagine, we ate dinner and went to bed on 4 August and the next morning we watch on TV that our state has been divided into two UTs and we have lost our special status! Did we not have a right to participate in or even know what was being done to our state?”
SPOs on the Frontline
J&K Police SPOs are often on the frontline of militant encounters and do not enjoy a good reputation within the community. They are often labelled traitors and collaborators.
Militant organisations have many a time targeted them and their families. J&K Police personnel have been warned against reporting to duty in posters purporting to be from Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The LeT poster says that India manipulates and misuses the J&K Police personnel and does not trust them. “Your weapons are taken away whenever India wants to take any big action in the Valley.”
Waheed rubbishes such rumours. “No, our weapons were not taken away. In any case, we do not always move around with our guns like militants. Our weapons are kept in kot in the police station. We get them issued when we go for operations.”
From Srinagar to Shopian, 14 J&K police personnel, of different ranks, corroborate Waheed’s account.
A senior police officer in Shopian says, “After the Damhal Hanji Pora incident of 2016, several precautions have been taken to guard our weapons. CRPF and Army are there to protect the police stations.”
In 2016, a mob stormed the police station at Damal Hanjipora in south Kashmir and looted police weapons.
The Clothes Conundrum
Tabrez (name changed), at the district collectorate in Srinagar, is getting ready to head out.
After all, the muezzin has already signalled that it’s time to offer Friday prayers. Tabrez tells his colleague, also heading out for namaaz, that he wants to go to the nearby smaller mosque instead of his regular downtown one.
“Aaj thoda darr hai. (It’s a little scary today.)" Tabrez tells me that dressed in shirt and trousers, he’s conspicuously sarkaari.
His colleague, Arif (name changed), is dressed in a sky blue pathani suit. “I haven’t worn trousers for a month now,” he says.
Why isn’t Tabrez dressed in a traditional fashion? “Once I was on my way to office from Hyderpora along with a very senior colleague. We were stopped at a CRPF checkpost. I told him my name and designation and was let off. The senior officer was turned back. He was dressed in a pathani!” Tabrez lets out a hearty laugh. Arif joins him. “It’s very risky for us to carry our office identity cards these days,” Tabrez continues. Arif adds that they only carry their voter ID cards now.
When questioned about the safety of the families of J&K police personnel, a senior police officer from south Kashmir says, “I’ve told my boys that in the event of a mass protest in their villages, their family members should join in instead of sticking out like a sore thumb.”
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