‘Absolutely no confusion’

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Kashmir’s top cop Shiv Murari Sahai talks about policing in an interview with Abdul Mohamin. Excerpts.
Kashmir Life: How has Jammu and Kashmir police progressed so far, particularly in dealing with crime and militancy besides maintaining law and order?

Shiv Murari Sahai: J&K Police has been at the forefront in dealing with crime, militancy and, law and order. We have successfully tackled the terrorist activities particularly in Srinagar and the graph of violence has subsided substantially. On the crime front the investigation has suffered because of the agitation but we are picking up. We have solved several murder cases like that of Nazir Teli of Pattan and a lot of theft cases.

KL: Do you feel that focus on one area, say law and order, affects dealing with other areas of policing?
SS: Obviously it has an impact. There should be an element of normalcy to conduct the investigations. Since the situation in the valley has improved we have devoted our time to deal with other issues and that is why we have solved several crime related cases.

KL: How, in your opinion, have the police fared, working under conflicting pressures they face from their officers and general public to deal with fragile situations?
SS: The mandate of police is very clear. As far as our task is concerned there is absolutely no confusion. The directions from the government are very clear. If you’re talking about the pressure then there have been assaults on police personnel who were travelling to their homes. Their houses were attacked, their private vehicles burnt. This was all done to demoralise them.

KL: What is police’s normal course of action when a juvenile is suspected to have gone against the law?
SS: In most of the cases where juveniles were involved, we have let them go. There was one case, which we recovered (arrested) later on, that he was not juvenile. Again we have asked for the verification (of his age). The most recent case you must be talking about is the guy from Anantnag, Faizan. The document his parents have shown, as per us is not correct. Medical examinations reveal that he is closer to 18.

KL: What measures are in place to detain juveniles while abiding by the laws governing detention of juveniles?
SS: Government is alive to the problem and they are considering it. Most of them have been let off. If we rely only on the school certificates you know how much authentic they are. School will go by what they are told. There is no real way to determine the biological age. As far as conduct of juvenile is concerned he is mature at the age of seventeen or eighteen. He can conduct the crime that is why there is Juvenile justice Act. The law itself acknowledges that people of this age are capable of committing the crime.

KL: The government has paid compensation to most of the victims of summer unrest of 2010 saying that they were civilians. Keeping this in view have you found any policeman guilty in those killings?
SS: Compensation has nothing to do with conduct of police. Compensation has been paid as an acknowledgment of the fact that they have suffered for whatever reasons. Culpability of police in such cases is a totally different issue. Wherever there have been allegations of culpability of police we have investigated.

KL: The court has ordered the identification of the policeman/ men who fired the firearm that killed Tufail Mattoo. Will the police be able to identify the policeman?
SS: Investigation is going on but I do not know the current status.

KL: Does the police intend to reach out to the people particularly youth?
SS: We have opened several youth clubs. We are also trying to hold youth conferences across the valley to know what their aspirations are and how police can help them to achieve their goals.

KL: Apart from the youth there are a lot of people who have grievances with the police. What about them?
SS: We are conducting civil society meetings. These meets are open forums. We get variety of feedbacks. There are a lot of complaints by people about their daily problems. Whatever we can do at our level we do that and also take up matter with other departments for quick redressal.

KL: What is the scenario of militant activity?
SS: The militant activity in most of the urban centres including Srinagar has gone down. However, they still have the capability to strike. We are able to deal with them because of the cooperation of people. But there are a few pockets where they are still active.

KL: Such as?
SS: Militancy in Kashmir has by and large come under control, but the pockets that come to our mind are Sopore, Tral, upper reaches of Shopian, Pulwama and Bandipora.

KL: Is police introducing new non-lethal weapons to deal with law and order situations, where police is face to face with civilians?
SS: We are already in possession of anti-riot weapons and we will continue to have non-lethal anti-riot weapons. We are also training our personnel to use them in an effective way. At our own place we are trying to overcome our shortcomings.
 
KL: What about the forensic support in investigating different crimes?
SS: This area needs a lot of improvement.

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A journalist with seven years of working experience in Kashmir.

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