Coronavirus: Pandemic Lockdown Puts Police In A Tightspot

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SRINAGAR: As the deadly virus grips the world and the mass quarantines have been implemented across the globe, police in India’s biggest-ever federally managed Union Territory are busy fighting the corona on the streets.

With heavy deployment across along with paramilitary men, the streets symbolise the Kashmir of erstwhile state. Hardly anybody is moving around as the people are voluntarily staying home, out of the fear of the virus. Unlike other places including Jammu, Kashmir is better placed because they are habitual of lockdown and culturally they are unlikely to die of hunger in such situations.

Voluntary Lockdown

Taking a break from the routine, cops are implementing the lockdown differently. This “difference” is being experienced by the people who are either required out of their homes or have something pressing forcing them to move out. These are reporters, people manning the essential services or the medical staff. They all are crying over the harsh implementation of the restrictions.

“As soon as they (cops) are on roads, they get into a different mode which is synonym to the situation in Kashmir,” said Zahoor Ahmad, a banker by profession, adding, “they should understand that the situation is not Kashmir vs India.” The cops, he said, do not understand that people are aware of the situation and then they are using force for no reason.

On March 23, Zahoor was bundled by police in a police vehicle while going to his office. “As the cop on duty stopped me, I told them being a banker I had to go but the cop reacted and bundled me in the gypsy,” he said.

Later on the intervention of seniors, he was allowed to go home.

Supporting Cops

The situation is not easy for the police too. Out in a pandemic to stop people coming out of their homes is a difficult task, says Mushtaq Ahmad, a retired employee. He understands the importance of enforcement of lockdown in the situation of a pandemic.

Sharing an interesting incident, Mushtaq, a resident of the old city in Srinagar said that his brother had never gone to pray in a Masjid regularly, but as soon as the virus got viral, he does not stay at home. “We have a responsibility to share,” Mushtaq said. “It is more a community crisis rather than something to do with the state.” But the police can is not always a solution.

Giving the details on Friday, Police Chief, Dilbagh Singh revealed that to “ensure the lockdown, police has lodged 329 FIRs against the violators and 600 vehicles/shops were seized for non-compliance of orders by the authorities till today,” and added, “about 1200 persons who were hiding international travel history have been traced.”

On Friday alone, 30 FIRs were lodged across the Jammu and Kashmir. The Kashmir had a share of 26 FIRs, while four were lodged in the Jammu division.

Telling Images

But social media is on fire, condemning and condoning the actions of police on streets.

NDTV’s Srinagar bureau chief Nazir Masoodi late Friday evening shared a video in which a senior police officer is seen kicking a senior citizen in Jammu’s Samba. “Some of the videos surfacing during enforcement of lockdown in J&K are quite disturbing. In this video a senior police officer is seen kicking and beating a senior citizen at Samba in Jammu”, he tweeted.

In another tweet on March 24, Masoodi while sharing the pictures from Gogu Pulwama wrote, “Dear @JmuKmrPolice this is not the way to enforce lockdown to fight Coronavirus. Please come out of August 5 mode and allow hassle-free movement of hospital vehicles/ambulances.”

There were a number of photographs showing the cops intercepting the individuals moving the peripheries and punishing them. “Those being punished could be labourers or students returning to their homes as the place is Bus Stand, Rajouri but occasional power has absolutely corrupted SPO biradiri who lack morals. It’s an epidemic not law&order problem @JmuKmrPolice,” a citizens Auqib Wani wrote on twitter while uploaded a photograph of young men being punished by cops.

Sharing her experience, Shehryar Khanum, daughter of former minister Naeem Akhtar writes, “If JKP behaviour remains unchecked, by the end of this pandemic we may have more brutalities at the hands of cops than the virus itself,” she wrote on Twitter.

Appreciating the role of police in controlling the community spread, Tajammul Ahmad writes, “This is the problem with our psyche. We are still thinking it is like previous curfews in Kashmir and we feel heroic by defying this curfew only because it is imposed by admin. We don’t realise that it is for our safety.”

A doctor by profession, Dr Rumisa Mir, acknowledging the role of police said, “While on my way to a hospital for duty I was stopped some 6 times and asked for ID card, administration doing an excellent job.”

Abusive Cop

However, on late Friday, a police cop in a video of 29 seconds is seen abusing people out in Kashmir during patrolling. Sharing it widely, there was huge resentment to the way the police is tackling the situation.

“As the world forces join hands to combat COVID-19, this cop misuses years of granted impunity to abuse locals and warn of beating them to blue. We need to de-criminalize J&K police. If in epidemic they have like this, it is anybody’s guess how would they behave otherwise,” a Kashmir based journalist Peerzada Ashiq wrote on twitter.

Acting on the complaint, the police have said that the cop in the video has been disengaged and FIR has been registered against him. “He has been disengaged & FIR registered against him,” the police confirmed on Twitter.

PDP Reacted

Calling for collective and meaningful efforts to contain the spread of deadly COVID 19, Peoples Democratic Party Friday urged the administration to take immediate measures to check alleged excesses by police and para-military personnel while enforcing lockdown across the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“While all efforts of the administration to check the spread of the deadly virus across Jammu and Kashmir was appreciated, reports of people being allegedly beaten up, humiliated and tortured on the pretext of enforcing lockdown must be viewed seriously”, PDP spokesperson and former legislator Firdous Tak, said in a statement here.

He said that mainstream and social media platform were flooded with images of people being paraded and humiliated and their videos and pictures being circulated by police and paramilitary personnel enforcing lockdown. In various parts of Jammu and Kashmir, especially Kashmir, government employees engaged in essential services, including doctors, were also allegedly harassed and beaten up.

 “The behaviour difference between lawbreakers and enforcers must be visible and the two cannot act in the same manner”, he said adding that nothing permits a police personal to take the law into his own hand and resort to inhuman and shameful methodology. “It is unfortunate that in Jammu and Kashmir things always are being enforced with an iron fist. While the officials out there enforcing lockdown and preventing the spread of disease are doing a commendable job and work under tremendous pressures, hundreds and thousands of people sitting home are also passing through unprecedented situation”.

Tak said that a humane approach was need of the hour where the society and law enforcement agencies have to play a collective and shared role in saving human lives. He also urged the people to cooperate and follow all the guidelines being issued by the administration from time to time in order to prevent the spread of deadly disease in the community.

“The social, economic and public health consequences of this near-total meltdown of normal life — schools and businesses closed, gatherings banned — will be long-lasting and calamitous, possibly graver than the direct toll of the virus itself,” he said adding that in those circumstances the society will have to play a more crucial role.

He urged the party workers across Jammu and Kashmir to play a role of educator and catalyst in order to spread the message of social distancing. “The workers of PDP have always played a positive role in the society and at this crucial juncture again we all have to stand with each other to face all difficulties and eventualities together”, Tak added.

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