#Day50: Delhi Flies Fresh Force, Tells Them It Is Election in Kashmir!

Bilal Handoo

SRINAGAR

New troopers manning Kashmir streets. (Photo: Bilal Bahadur?KL)
New troopers manning Kashmir streets. (Photo: Bilal Bahadur?KL)

With Delhi once again sticking to its old military guards to deal with Kashmir’s fresh upheaval, the extra troopers it dispatched to valley on war-footing for what it called “restoring law and order” have apparently become a ‘butt of a joke’. Many among the new troopers are so unaware about the Kashmir situation that they believe they have been sent to manage polling booths in valley!

But that’s not all. Majority of these reinforcements appear so high on adrenaline that they make commoners believe as if they have been sent to wage armed battle in some war-torn region. Perhaps, what is fuelling this sense in them is omnipresence of anti-India graffiti greeting them in valley. The writing on the wall is apparently making them believe that they have just landed in “enemy zone”.

One health official was cut short twice by new troopers recently when he was on way to office. “I was taken aback when somewhat confused CRPF man at Dalgate stopped me to enquire, ‘where is this polling centre?’ Later that day at Dargarh, another CRPF man stopped me, asking, ‘where is the polling booth?’ ” Both the CRPF men were part of new deployment, the official curtly learned.

With “polling” in mind, many of them arrived in valley within three days after Burhan Wani’s killing smoked up scores of security structures in south Kashmir. By July 12, Delhi had rushed 800 additional CRPF troops with 100 personnel each to valley. The reinforcement was in addition to 1,200 personnel sent to aid police on July 9. Already, 60 battalions were stationed in Kashmir.

But sending these ‘naive’ troopers without proper briefing about Kashmir’s security situation only proved deadly besides hilarious in the ongoing civil uprising. Some of them stopped cars and after checking the curfew passes said: “Get the one from Kendrya Sarkar, Yeh Nahin Chalay Ga!”

On the first day of their arrival, someone among these troopers couldn’t stop feeling ‘trigger-happy’ when he killed a teenager in Newa Pulwama. ‘First day, first kill’ had parallels with fall 1947—when Indian army first landed in Kashmir.

One of the critiques faced by these troopers is their least terrain knowledge. When lately the same emergency force intercepted some local newsmen in Srinagar and barred them from performing their professional duties, the naivety of these newly posted gunners was only reaffirmed.

“It was laughable when one of those newly deployed trooper told me, ‘Your curfew pass is only valid up to 6am in the morning,’ ” said Faisal Ahmad, a local lensman. “The poor chap wasn’t even briefed about the worth of curfew pass. Another day, another trooper inquired from me about Lal Chowk, ‘which village is this?’”

Most of these new troopers belong to India’s largest central armed police forces—CRPF, functioning directly under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs. Their primary role lies in assisting state in maintaining law and order and conducting polls. But in Kashmir, CRPF wears many hats.

Within 32 days, CRPF—whose boss equated “pellet-blinding” with “wife-beating”—had finished 1.3 million pellets and 8,650 teargas shells against Kashmir protesters. Apart from ammo combat, these newly arrived troopers along with their experienced pros were caught on camera — smashing windowpanes, damaging properties.

A woman looking outside her broken window in south Kashmir.
A woman looking outside her broken window in south Kashmir.

In Srinagar’s Basant Bagh area, these forces lately went berserk during dusk hours and damaged public properties. But the panic spread in Zainadar Mohalla, when the same force had verbally threatened to torch the area in case protests continued. Their performance in raged up countryside is an obvious raged affair.

Hame bola election duty pe jaana hai [we were told that we have to go for election duty],” said Saurav Mishra, a CRPF man stationed in Khanyar. “Yaha tou hame curfew pe lagaya [Here we were put on curfew duty].”

Even J&K police personnel made no secret about their ‘strung-up’ liaison with new-fangled force. They admit having “great” trouble dealing with them. “They openly accuse us being ‘hand in glove’ with ‘anti-India’ Kashmiris if we tend to exercise some relaxation with general public,” said Mushtaq Bhat, a cop posted in Srinagar. “They have made our job tough. We have to manage both our duties and them, lest they cut loose to everyone’s chagrin.”

After Amarnath Yatra concluded on August 18, many companies of CRPF were sent to manage rebellious valley.

“To ensure their proper conduct,” says a senior police official in whose district these new gunners remains on loose, “we either intermix them with old troopers or station them at least sensitive pockets.” The officer ruled out the possibility of putting these troopers through a proper training before posting them in valley. “It is not possible,” he said. “We call them on war-footing basis for emergency help. Though I agree they tend to cut loose, but briefing is not possible in these terrible times.”

Even Rajesh Yadav, PRO CRPF, expressed the similar views. “There is no time to put these men through briefing before posting them to valley,” Yadav said. “But yes, we keep them with experienced troopers for proper conduct.”

With such a force managing Kashmir at the moment, it becomes apparent to restraint from wishing someone: May the Force be with you!

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