Let me at the outset say that policing in a conflict zone like India’s Kashmir Valley is not an easy job and the police are highly vulnerable. The police department (J&K Police) in this corner of the world is almost always in the news. Since no good news isnews in conflict zones, the story is not different in the Kashmir Valley where the police force always catches media attention for the wrong reasons and mostly for issues that bring embarrassment to the organization, to the personnel and even to their families.
However, the picture is not all that bad and the fact remains that the police do have a goodwill role as well in society. It will not be wrong to argue that media trolls and journalistic jingoism have a great role and part not what Noam Chomsky said in “manufacturing consent,” but in manufacturing resentment and that too against a particular group. The legendary sociologist Prof. Dabla has already highlighted the social stigma and hardships faced by policemen in Kashmir. For the stigma and hardships of the group, rather would I say manufactured resentment, can much be attributed to media propaganda?
My urging is not an outcome of any subjectivity, but to a greater extent sociological and scientific. It was not until my interaction with a police officer just few days back that my a priori notions about the police were debunked and deconstructed. It was also not that I was not acquitted with the concept of a priori notions put forward by philosophies like Immanuel Kant and others. I have been reading from books, magazines, journals, newspapers not only about the concept, but also studied how dangerous and disastrous can it be especially for logical and scientific understanding of the things or for that matter understanding the complex social reality of Kashmir.
I admit that I had certain preconceived notions about police and the police department as far as their operations are concerned. Maybe due to manufactured resentment, I never liked the police or police departmenst like the majority of Kashmiri people given the prolonged conflict situation especially since 1989. The people doubt the police on many grounds even in present day Kashmir since they have played a lot in today’s counterterrorism machinery. Everyone is scared of them and everyone doubts their credibility as Kashmir has witnessed enormous human rights abuses and people doubt the whole security grid.
As the old byword goes, ‘We hate people because we don’t understand them’, I too was the victim of the same perception till I got an opportunity to interact with a policeman when visiting the police station. While interacting with the policeman, most of my negative perceptions were debunked and deconstructed.
The first event took place just a few days back when our locality had to visit the police station not too far from the capital city of Srinagar. It was to seek the intervention of the police to get some public grievances addressed. The village had been in darkness for a month and the Power Development Department was not paying any attention to the people of the village. It was only with the intervention of Sub Divisional Police Officer (SDPO), that electricity was restored in the village after a month just within a few hours. The way SDPO dealt and behaved with the people really impressed everyone. Everyone was compelled to praise the good cop, and his humane gesture became the talk of the town. I was wondering can Policing in Kashmir be further improved. Can it be made public-friendly like this? Can people and Police together weave a peaceful Kashmir? If there are such good cops who are there for people, we can change the ugly social realities of Kashmir.
The other day I happened to visit the police station again to complain against a public officer for misusing his power and position, misleading people and abusing the law. When I reached the police station I did not observe or experience what I used to hear from people, no misbehavior, no indecency, but instead a warm welcome. After going through my application the officer in charge very politely asked me to meet the SDPO and guided me to his office. Again to my utter surprise I was just to reach the office, when his guard welcomed me and I had not to wait even for a minute to interact with the SDPO. I was realizing that the Police has changed and improved a lot in this part of the world. After going through my application it did not take him a minute to mark the application and forward it. The application reached to the table of Station House Officer, where without wasting any movement he marked the application and did the needful. I was happy at seeing such professionalism at work.
This was an experience that I never had, ssince our childhood we had viewed the police as corrupt, brutal, lazy and oppressive. It must be realized that the police in Kashmir has come a long way as far as their public dealing is concerned and soon I hope the police-public dichotomy will be dealt with on all grounds and at all levels. Today’s Kashmir badly needs a professional and public friendly police who are highly human sensitive, gender sensitive and aim to restore the past glory of the law and order.
Dr. Fayaz Ahmad Bhat, is a student of Sociology, and a social activist He is an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He has many research publications to his credit. His columns and analyses are appearing on and off in international, national and local news papers, web portals and blogs. He has awards and fellowships to his credit as well.