As counter-insurgency became the main priority of the government, it created its own stars. In the Chenab Valley, far away from Srinagar and Jammu, an asset would fetch “kills’ at every drop of a hat After he established his status as top ‘encounter’ specialist of the region, sometimes acting independent of the systems, he was arrested last week for creating and managing his own ‘militancy’, a Kashmir Life report.
Syed Asim Hashmi is one of the senior lawyers in Doda. He is contesting an interesting case. Three years back, a “militant” identified as Basheer Ahmad alias Imtiaz of Malore in Dessa kidnapped a young Gujjar boy Abdul Lateef from Krandi Dahar mountain hamlet. Lateef says he was being forced by the “militant” to work with him. As the “militant” was holding the boy in the forests for around a fortnight who did not want to oblige his abductor, the hostage was desperate to go home. It was during this desperation that he got a chance to settle his scores. As his captor fell asleep, Lateef got a boulder and smashed his captors head and killed him. Then, he fled from the jungle and informed the police.
Immediately, police registered an FIR (No 5 of 2010 under section 302, 404 RPC) on May 31, 2010. On Lateef’s inputs, the police recovered the body of the slain ‘militant’. They recovered his watch, some currency, cell phone and above all an AK-56 assault rifle. Lateef had not touched any of his belongings. He preferred stone over a rifle because he did not know how to use it.
With Lateef in the lock-up, police concluded investigations. It established slain as an Hizb ul Mujahideen militant and held Lateef responsible for murder. For last three years, Lateef is in jail. His assertion that he was actually a victim could not get a mention in the charge sheet. “The state policy is that anybody who kills a militant is to be rewarded,” Hashmi says. “But in this case a person who was victim of the militant and who did something in self defence is held by the police for the murder.”
Hashmi has no idea why the prosecution was pressing the case for all these years. Now he tries to understand the situation. “May be the “militant” was set by the man who represented police’s counter-insurgency face,” Hashmi said. “Since the man who was setting the militants in the region is in jail, currently on remand, he may offer key to this mystery now.”
Last week, police arrested sub inspector Shiv Krishan Sharma along with his head security-guard and deputy head Constable Mohammad Ayub for arming five “militants” who were arrested for an attack on a police camp in Doda. The “militants” had lobbed a grenade on the police station Thathri on April 28. After a case (FIR No. 33/2013) was registered and the investigations started, police finally zeroed in on a few young men who were formally arrested on May 22. As they started spilling the beans in police custody, the sleuths were shocked to know that they were armed by the Shiv and Ayub.
The gang of five “militants” comprised Abdul Rashid Harga alias Abdullah, Akhter Hussain (residents of Tanta), Mohammad Rafi (Patnazi, Bounjwah), Altaf Hussain (Joura, Gandoh and Mohammad Yaqoob (Bathree, Gandoh). Police first caught Altaf Hussain who is believed to have lobbed the grenade on the Thathri police station. Once he was in, the entire gang of five was rounded up. But it was the shocking revelations they made that triggered a crisis. They revealed Shiv-Ayub duo had roped in two of them and baptized into “militancy” and later they recruited three others on the directions of their mentors. This happened during the Shiv-Ayub’s posting in Kishtwar. Top police officials said they were basically posted in Doda for nearly 15 years between 1996 and 2011but once the militancy subsided in the belt, they were posted out of Doda in neighboring Kishtwar district where a few militants were operating. But practically they would operate in the entire Chenab valley, sometimes without taking their seniors into confidence.
It was not so easy for the police to arrest their own colleagues. They had to check and cross check. Finally when the police at the highest level was convinced that it is a fact and not a fiction, they got the green signal to arrest the two. They know the arms and ammunition that the five were carrying along with the grenade that blasted in the attack were all supplied by the two. They were produced before the district and sessions judge and are currently in the police remand. They are booked for crimes falling under sections 307 RPC, 7/27 (Arms Act) and 3PSS (Prevention of Sabotage and Subversion Act) and 120-B RPC in FIR 33 of 2013 of police station Thathri.
Barring confirmation of the arrest and admission of a sort of crisis, police would not offer any more details. They say the investigations are on and once it will be over, outcome will go public automatically.
Shiv is no ordinary police official. He is one of the most decorated officials within his peers. Apart from President’s Police Medal for Gallantry (August 15, 2011), Director General of Police Medal for Meritorious and Distinguished Services and Army medals, he has been the most recognized face of the battle against militancy in the mountain region. He is being credited for 68 “kills” but officials and civilians insist it could be around 200.
Son of a post man, Heem Raj and a teacher mother Bimla Devi, Shiv is a resident of Badanoo hamlet in Thathri, not far away from Prem Nagar. Father of a son, he is married in Udhampur. As he finished schooling, militancy was at its peak. Within days he started working for the counter-insurgency grid that fetched him the nickname BBC for passing on information. After a couple of massacres of the Hindus were carried out by the militants, Shiv was active in trying to help the security agencies to fight militancy. Soon he was a volunteer with a local Village Defence Committee (VDC). Carrying a vintage 3.3 rifle, Shiv was the new face against militancy and stars favored him when he killed a militant. It led him become the Special Police Official (SPO) in 1997 for which state police was paying a consolidated sum of Rs 1500, a month.
As his profile started getting bigger, the then Deputy Prime Minister, L K Advani, while visiting a site of a carnage, praised his role and directed his formal induction into the police. That was the first major breakthrough in his career. Then, there was no looking back. He got two out-of-turn promotions on operational performance to become ASI in 1999 and SI in 2005. His operational performance made him darling of many of his seniors.
Being at the core of counter insurgency is not so easy. He was always on the militants’ hit-list. During an encounter in 2002, Shiv received a bullet in his leg. Later in 2005, a splinter hit his eye but did not damage it totally. Once he was so much injured that police airlifted him to Jammu for treatment.
As rewards and awards rained over him, Shiv’s life changed completely. Apart from his repaired and renovated house in Thathri, he has a hotel and a house in Sartingle belt of Bhaderwah.
But the profile he got left many people suffocated in the region. At the peak of militancy, Bhaderwah’s Anjuman-e-Islamia had leveled allegations of extortion against him but nobody believed. So many detected the “fakeness” in a few surrenders that he managed for his seniors but everybody within the police talked in whispers. Allegations of a few fake encounters never reached a level where these could have been looked into.
But now people have started talking. The case of a mason Mohammad Hussain of Koti village is so fresh in Bhderwah that everybody is now talking about it. According to his mason brother Bashir Ahmad, Shiv wanted Hussain to work for him but he refused. The rejection led Shiv to seek an extortion of Rs 25000 which the mason could not afford to pay. So one day, Shiv caught him near Mochan and allegedly killed him in an “encounter”. With Shiv in lock-up, every village has some story to share.
But people who know the cheerful, visibly friendly cop, always wearing a heavy golden necklace are sure that all his “kills” are not fake. One police man who knows the detained specialist said it seems to be a later phenomenon when the militancy dried up and guns started felling silent. “The drying up of militancy marked an end to action, rewards and felicitations so the man wanted to have some way out for action,” one official said on the condition of anonymity.
Given the details that are emerging from the region, reports of Shiv having liaison with militants are not correct. He had evolved his own system of setting the militants and finally catching and pinning them down to keep the action going.
Doda is surprised over the “militants” that appeared on the scene and vanished within days. Aslam Bhat was one of them. From a far off village, he was a domestic help in the town. One fine morning, he was found carrying a precious cell phone. Within a few days he went underground. A few weeks later, police mounted hunt to pin him down as he was declared a militant whose group was sighted in the mountains. A few days later, he was dead in a simple encounter. Same was true with his cousin, also a domestic help. “There were many domestic-helps in the town and a few villages around which became militants,” Hashmi said. “They all died, one by one”.
People in Doda talk about around 30 boys who apparently lacked any arms training. They simply went underground and were killed. “It was not a nexus, it was a killing enterprise,” asserts Hashmi.