Operations and Elections are Different, Won’t Stop Crackdown on Militants During Polls: J&K Top Cop Munir Khan

Security remains a major challenge in Jammu & Kashmir as civic body elections are nearing. Militants have threatened those participating in elections and separatists have appealed people to stay away from polls. Two major political parties of state, Peoples Democratic Party and National Conference, have boycotted.

Additional Director General of J&K Police, Munir Khan, discusses the current security situation and challenges.

How is security establishment gearing up for the upcoming body polls?

The security during the polls is a challenge, without any doubt. Security is a factor, but there are other issues as well. The challenge is the number of candidates who are participating in the elections. Some candidates belong to vulnerable pockets which are to be taken care of. We are planning the strategies regarding deployments in order to address the security concerns. Currently, we are focusing on urban body elections because these elections will be followed by panchayat elections.

What is more challenging Urban Body election or the Panchayat election?

The urban body elections are confined to a particular area called municipal limits and the number of candidates is not that high. The panchayat elections are scattered in the nooks and corners of the state. The number of candidates is comparatively higher, therefore managing panchayat polls will be a task.

Would there be the suspension of anti-militancy operations during election time?

Operations and elections are different. The anti-militancy operations will go on.

Is there low morale in forces given the killings and abduction of Jammu and Kashmir police personnel and their family members?

Jammu and Kashmir is facing this militancy since 1990. We have always stood up to the test of the time. The recent killing of SPOs and constables is no doubt a setback for us but we will certainly come back forcefully with more vigour and commitment. We have been overcoming and we will certainly overcome this setback too.

How alarming is recent incident in which an SPO decamped with eight weapons? You have ordered the withdrawal of SPOs from the security detail of protected persons.

The SPO decamping with weapons is alarming and disturbing because one of your own men has betrayed you. It has happened in the past also. In a recent operation, an SPO-turned- militant was killed in an encounter in Budgam. So this is not a new thing. There are always certain bad hands in any organisation. These people are not loyal and have lost commitment.

A special investigation team has been constituted to investigate the recent case. We have got some leads and we are working on them.

The order regarding withdrawal of SPOs from the security detail of protected persons has been issued after due consideration. The SPOs are not trained fully to handle the weapons. In case of an attack on a protected person SPO has to retaliate. If that fellow doesn’t know how to handle that weapon what will he do? It’s sheer mockery. His services will not be used as a PSO. He can be put in other services.

Doesn’t the SPOs need training for other jobs?

The order states that an SPO, if he is licensed driver, can stay with the protected person because he is trained to drive his vehicle. Also, 99% of SPOs who are working in operational groups are trained to handle the weapons.

But those who are not trained can’t be put on such duties.

The fact is that SPO is not the permanent employ of the police. He is not drawing the salary but honorarium. So for a such a sensitive duty, we cannot put temporary cadres on PSO duty.

The SPO who recently decamped with weapons was doing menial jobs at the residence of the protected person. Do you think it is the job of SPO?

SPO can’t be put on such chores. It is a subject matter of investigation that on whose recommendation this SPO got recruited and why was he then deployed with this particular MLA and what was he doing for all these days. The problem is the system prevailing. When systems start eroding then it leads to all these problems. So, at some stage, we have to set the systems right and I am trying to do that.

SPOs are working as the domestic help of protected persons. One SPO said he is even changing the diaper of the child of the person he is deployed with. What are the SPOs meant for?

This is certainly a very serious issue because the basic aim for which these SPOs are recruited is killed. That is why I have called them back, get them trained and put them to the job they are really meant for.
They are not domestic helps that they will do the menial jobs. We are not running an agency of domestic helpers.

Police had a different approach in dealing with the protesters regarding Article 35 A and 370 controversies. Don’t you think the police can deal with other protests in a similar manner as well?

Any protest is dealt with on its merits and demerits. When the protest is peaceful and not disrupting law and order situation, we will not use any force against them. Shopkeepers, lawyers and civil society held decent protests. There was no requirement of using force. But once the protesters turn violent, indulge in stone pelting, they attempt arson and other things, we are compelled to use the force.

There have been reports about detention of candidates who were going to withdraw their candidature from the recent civic body elections 
That is not true. We have not detained any candidate. Our job is to provide them with security, not to detain them.

Do you think the police has an added responsibility in the Governor’s rule?

Police always had responsibility in their hands. Whether it be the government of political parties or governor’s rule, we have to perform our job and our mandate. But now police has an additional responsibility. That is with every department because people should not suffer. Police is the bridge between government and people.

Candidates who are contesting the civic and panchayat polls claim there are not adequate security measures.

The strength of J&K police including SPOs over one lakh. The total number of candidates are around seventy thousand. If we will provide two security guards to each candidate then what will we do?

We have posted cluster security. The candidates have been given secure accommodations. We are also making other areas safe through operations and increased presence of forces and domination. At some places, candidates have been provided security detail.

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