What Kashmir DSP’s Arrest Reveals: Corruption Keeps Conflict Alive

It is tragic that the Centre hasn’t prioritised ending corruption since it took charge of governing J&K in 2018. 

Updated
Opinion
4 min read
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Snapshot
  • The grapevine in Kashmir has buzzed — more than once — with rumours of militants being ferried in official cars of legislators and ranking police officers — just as tainted DSP Davinder Singh was evidently doing.
  • The DSP’s arrest has given credence to something many in Kashmir have long suspected: powerful elements within the system of governance, including the police and some politicians, might have deep links with militancy.
  • The insurgency and conflict in Kashmir would not have continued for so long if powerful figures of authority had not had vested interests in their continuation.
  • It is tragic that the Centre has not prioritised ending corruption since it took direct control of governing J&K in June 2018.

The arrest of a deputy superintendent of police in the Kashmir Valley was stunning, for he was arrested in the company of two high-ranking militants of Pakistan-backed terror group Hizbul Mujahideen.

DSP Davinder Singh’s arrest seems to give credence to something that those who have lived and suffered in Kashmir have long suspected: powerful elements within the system of governance, including the police and some politicians, might have had deep links with militancy. Tragically, this stains the image of a force that has performed admirably overall, making huge sacrifices.

Early reports and speculation suggest that this arrest could open a can of worms regarding even some of the most high-profile terror events.

More than once, the grapevine in Kashmir has buzzed with rumours of militants being ferried in official cars of legislators and ranking police officers — just as this DSP was evidently doing.

Many prominent citizens, including many in authority, seem to have purchased security by cutting deals of one sort or another with those who wield weapons on both sides. Such networks extend to those who wield those weapons, including some in the police force.

Clean Up the Rot

If indeed this is a pattern, it is lamentable that this rot has not been cleaned up more than 18 months since the state (now union territory) has been directly ruled by the Union Home Ministry. Sunday’s arrest apparently happened by chance.

The police officers were lying in wait for the Hizb men, on the basis of reliable information, and were taken aback to find the police officer with them — and some automatic weapons. The DSP was apparently brazen, promptly demanding that the car be allowed past without checking since he was a police officer. His attitude might suggest that this is precisely what may have been done in the past too, possibly by others in the circles of power and authority.

Slippery Categories: ‘Mainstream’ & ‘Secessionist’

I have repeatedly pointed out that categories such as ‘mainstream’ and ‘secessionist’ are artificial in Kashmir; there is a great deal of overlap. The insurgency and conflict would not have continued for so long if powerful figures of authority had not had vested interests in the continuation of conflict.

There could be networks involving persons who are meant to be on one side of the divide or the other, working closely together to ensure mutual profit.

Pakistan sends covert funds. The Indian government sends both covert funds and vast amounts in grants and loans. A very large proportion of these grants and loans are siphoned. The continuation of conflict allows the loot to carry on unaudited. The conflict also affords all kinds of vicious — even lethal — means to deal with those who probe too deeply.

Conflict Economy

The chapter titled ‘Conflict Economy’ in my book The Generation of Rage in Kashmir reveals some of the patterns of vested interests in the continuation of conflict. I have explained in the book how the special powers that go with counter-insurgency operations often become an instrument for extortion.

Corruption is the grease that keeps the conflict machinery well-oiled and running. It is quite possible that money played a role in getting the impugned police officer a posting in the Special Operations Group, which is specifically meant to fight militancy.

J&K ‘Tops’ the Corruption Charts

Corruption is an aspect of police work in many countries. However, in the special circumstances of Kashmir, it is a potent source of alienation, anger, and insurgency. Since 2009, global corruption watch organisation ‘Transparency International’ has listed Jammu and Kashmir as the ‘most corrupt state’ in the country. The police force is not only extraordinarily large, it controls extraordinary power.

It is tragic that the Centre has not prioritised ending corruption since it took direct control of governing the state in June 2018. Indeed, the grapevine suggests that corruption has only increased. 

It is hardly surprising in this light that there has been little or only limited cooperation with anti-militancy operations.

Active Collusion & Compromised Intel

To defend its moves to silence and confine the Valley’s political class, the Centre has hinted at links between those who have held power, and figures in the secessionist movement — and possibly even directly with terrorists. Such links would be impossible to maintain without the active collusion of segments of the police force. Indeed, such links are surely not limited to the corridors of political power, but also extend to the echelons of the administration and the police.

Too often has intelligence been compromised over the past couple of decades.

Worse, conditions have wilfully been created for the continuation of conflict — which far too many in positions of authority view as something of a golden goose, which yields vast amounts of unaccounted money.

(The writer is the author ofThe Story of Kashmir’ andThe Generation of Rage in Kashmir’. He can be reached at @david_devadas. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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