A few months into his new job, the Special Director General of Police, S. P. Vaid, the man most likely to be the next Police Chief feels the state has won back control of the streets in the Kashmir valley from the pro-freedom protestors. He feels it the job of the police now to earn back the trust of a people embittered and badly shaken in the last six months of the widespread protest movement against the state. It might not be an easy task but he feels the police must make a start somewhere. Mubashir Bukhari spoke to him.
KM: After you took over as the special DGP, how did you go about taking back control of the streets from the protestors?
VAID: This was quite challenging when I took over as Special Director General of Police for Law and Order and Coordination. Things were quite bad but I thank Almighty Allah and by his blessings things have really improved from last two and half months. On law and order front things are almost normal. Markets are open, transport is moving and people are carrying out their daily activities.
KM: What in your view was the most daunting challenge for the police and paramilitary forces?
VAID: Most difficult and challenging job for police is to handle young boys. After all we also come from same society, I also have young children, brothers at home and same case is with all police and CRPF men. So handling these young boys is definitely a big challenge and using force against themis the most difficult task for any police men because no policemen willingly wants to use the force unless he is compelled by circumstances. Convincing police and CRPF men was most difficult for me that they are our own boys we should handle them with empathy.
KM: did you have separate strategies for various regions of Kashmir?
VAID: Yes we had our strategies in position for each zone and we are handling as per that strategy. There is no doubt that south Kashmir has more problems in the area but with people’s cooperation we will be able to handle it.
KM: Do you believe these protests are spontaneous?
VAID: Separatists are issuing protest calendars and it was all in response to thesecalendars.The role of separatists no one can deny.
KM: According to reportsmore than 9000 people, including young boys, have been arrested during the current unrest and are lodged in different jails. Their families are worried?
VAID: I don’t think your figure is correct, now most of them have been bailed out. Though I don’t have exact figures with me this time but as per my information not more than 700-800 people are either in detention or police stations.
KM: Have you framed any strategy to deal with those who were arrested during current unrest for stone pelting and other offences?
VAID: I have requested jail authorities and state government to start counseling session for stone pelters mostly first timers and those who are young. We will inform them how stone pelting is harmful for them and for the society they come for.
KM: Do you think counseling will be helpful keeping in view the present situation?
VAID: Counseling definitely helps and some of our officers have already started counseling sessions. I have requested IGP Kashmir to replicate same in other districts too.
KM: Police officers are turning counselors; don’t you think they (cops) also need counseling when it comes to handling ‘law and order’ situation?
VAID:Absolutely, police personnel’s also need counseling. Not everything is perfect in police; we are in fact conducting joint training of police and CRPF together. The purpose of this training is to brief, teach and inculcate in them the sense of responsibility of handling the crowd. As per our Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), they should handle the crowd.
KM: But SOPs are being violated, forces are openly using pellets and bullets against the protestors andnumber of casualties has been so high? Will you take action against those men?
VAID: I think wherever such incidents have come to the notice ofauthorities; the government has already ordered an enquiry. You need to understand that situation is very difficult; it is not easy for CRPF and police to handle. They are confronted against a very difficult situation. While handling such a difficult job, there can be mistakes but then we need to learn our mistakes and correct them for future.
KM: Pellets have done lot of damage. Why no other alternative was used to confront protestors?
VAID: Pellets have done lot of damage, I agree with you but I had instructed policemen to use pellet as a last resort. I told them use pellets only when huge crowd surrounds you and you are likely to be lynched or overpowered. Otherwise I have asked them to use teargas shells.
KM: Despite your instructions to forces, Pellets were used on daily basis?
VAID:You must have seen the change after I instructed my policemen to stop its use. Now the pellet incidents have drastically come down and are almost zero now.
KM:A central committee has suggested use of PAVA shells instead of pellets? But they have not been used?
VAID: They have suggested PAVA shells and Union Home Minister in fact announced it then these shells have come. Now we are preferably using PAVA shells and there are certain suggestions to improve and we have given our feedback on its use.
KM: School burning incidents have been a major challenge and surprisingly police was not able to curb such incidents. Who were actually responsible? Clear the air on school burning?
VAID: We have arrested 20 plus people and they are being booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) and that has acted as a deterrent. We couldn’t get any link with whom they were involved, they were individual groups.
KM: Post Burhan’s death, do you think more boys joined militant ranks in last four months?
VAID: I don’t think number has increased. As per our information, last year the number was around 74 and this year the figures are same. I don’t see much difference in local recruitment.
KM: Have you met families of those who are missing or joined militant ranks during current unrest period?
VAID: I have not individually met those families but my officers have already done that. My instructions are that we should first get them over because they are all local boys. After CM’s instructions we have established contacts with the families of local militants who have recently joined militant ranks and five of them have already surrendered and we will encourage the surrenders of local militants.
KM: Many parents are alleging that they have to pay hefty amounts to police officers to get their wards out of jails? Have you received any complaints regarding the same?
VAID: I have also heard this and I have issued strict instructions regarding this. If I get any complaints regarding the officers who are taking bribes from people to get their wards released, those officers will be dealt strictly. But so far specifically no one has registered such a complaint to me but during meetings with district SPs, I have instructed them that I should not get any complaint of money being demanded for releasing people.
KM: Don’t you think the level of mistrust between police and public in Kashmir is deep? Do you have plans to bridge that gap?
VAID: There is trust deficit but we need to do lot win over the people. In this regard I have instructed all districtSPs to constitute Police Community Partnership Groups (PCPGs) in Kashmir zone. The members should be selected from all sections of the society including social, religious leaders and also opinion makers of the area and including, minorities and women. The PCPGs should be constituted in each police station area. I have directed them to create number of these groups at police station and police post level. It has been also ordered that the concerned SHOs will hold the meet of PCPG members once in month, SDPOs and DySPs once in two months and concerned SSPs once in three months. The PCPGs are aimed at providing a grievance redressal mechanism so that police becomes a facilitator in solving the problems being faced by general public. We have also directed that the district SSP to raise the grievances/ problems not related to police with the District development commissioners and concerned heads of the respective departments. This will help to solve the problem of drugs and other social evils in the society.
KM:There are reports that police is in nexus with drug suppliers? If you find any one guilty what will be the punishment?
VAID: I will not spare policemen whoever is involved in this. My instructions are that we have to launch a war against drugs in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. And I will come heavily on those policemen. I have informed all the districts SPs and DySps about the same and said no compromise on drugs. If I come to know that any officer is involved, he will be terminated from his services.
KM: Weapon snatching incidents hoe increased this year. To avoid these incidents what steps have you taken?
VAID:There were incidents of weapon snatching after we had meeting with our police officers, CRPF and Army; we devised a strategy how o check this and I think after that no incident of weapon snatching has taken place. It has stopped because corrective measures were taken.
KM: Militants are openly threatening policemen. For their safety what are your plans?
VAID:Policemen in J&K are always under threat and we will take action against those who threaten them. We have registered FIR against Hizb Militant Zakir Mosa for issuing that Video and we will proceed against him.
KM: Is there any plan of providing general amnesty to the arrested youths?
VAID:It is the government that has to decide whether they will give amnesty to these boys or not. It’s not our job.
KM:Burhan was the trigger but what were the other factors that changed the whole game in the state this time? How different is this unrest from previous ones?
VAID:It is definitely different from previous unrests. This time it was not limited to urban areas but rural pockets were mostly part of it. But now things are limping back to normalcy. People have suffered a lot in last five months and we don’t wish them to suffer more. Sooner they realize that nothing is going to come out by closing shops and other establishments the better.
KM: You are in the race to become the next DGP of the state? What are your plans to make policing more strong and people friendly?
VAID: I only wish to provide better police service to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and improve police-public relations that’s my first priority. I want policemen to give due respect to law abiding citizens and address them with respect. Those who don’t abide by laws will be dealt strictly.