Why defend indefensible?

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This Tuesday saw two unfortunate incidents happening in Srinagar and Shopian. In Habba Kadal area of downtown Srinagar, a young boy was critically injured by a stone pelted at him allegedly by the paramilitary CRPF personnel while as in a Shopian village government forces fired pallets at media-person, injuring four of them. Both these incidents could have been easily avoided if only the government forces were sensitized to the situational dynamics here. But unfortunately thus far the state has not been able to create such a template as would make them think twice before victimizing anyone here. Fearing no consequences as there are none, they have made it into a sort of habit to so overdo things for they no their back are covered not only by some “repressive” laws but also by the state that prioritizes the so0called morale of its armed forces over the morale of the common citizenry!

Both these incident have once again brought the spotlight on the structural flaws in policing or security management here. There is something (read so many things) inherently wrong in the way the government forces have been operating here over the years. The biggest shortcoming of course being the very little regard the men in khaki show towards the rights of the ordinary people!

More than 70 percent of all civil war situations during past three decades throughout the world have been followed by some provisions of police reform. In most of these cases, the agreed upon reforms centered around enhanced training or professionalization of the ‘men in khaki’, and their conformity with the international human rights standards. Almost all these cases called for fundamental reorientation of policing along new models emphasizing citizen service. In El Salvador and Guatemala, Haiti and Kosovo, for instance, international interventions resulted in the replacement of old security forces with new police forces trained in new academies under new doctrines. Police or security reforms were also stressed and carried out in Northern Ireland, Namibia, South Africa, Eastern Slavonia, Mozambique, Cambodia, Nicaragua, Angola, Rwanda and scores of others places even though implementation varied from case to case.

Many a broad indicators and inferences can be drawn from all these cases which make for some common yet very vital propositions. For instance, such reforms matter for medium- and long-term public security and democratization. Successful cases are also suggestive of the reforms having helped improve human rights performance and the public’s expectation for and understanding of how police (“security forces”) should protect citizens. Indeed a cursory look at the history supports the belief that reconfiguration of the military and police forces is central to the stability of any society that has been torn apart by years of conflict. This is why the reduction in the size and authority of militaries has usually been combined with strengthened civilian police institutions, and there is much empirical evidence to correlate it with the successful outcomes.

In Kashmir, civilians have faced greater risks of violent death or serious injury not because of their involvement in open combat, but because they were either caught ‘at wrong place at wrong time’ or because ‘causing them harm’ suited someone’s political or military design and game-plan. So, over-all public confidence in the government is heavily determined more than anything else by its ability to provide general public security in this highly fluid situation. And the police and other armed forces come in here – because no political leader — a chief minister or a home minister or a governor or his advisors – are going to stand guard on and for the common people. Police and armed forces do it for the state and the government. So citizens are more likely, on daily basis, to deal more with them than with other wings of the government. People interact more with a cop or a paramilitary personnel manning the street corner than they do with the Governor or his advisors. Therefore, more than with political executives’, it is the tenor of people’s interactions with the man in khaki in the neighbourhood and their moderation in the use of force, which will have a significant effect on whether the public trusts and supports the government and its institutions or not. This hitherto neglected area cannot and should not be left neglected anymore.


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