With elections round the corner, the security noose around the Srinagar city and all the major towns has tightened further. Particularly after the Pulwama (Lethpora) suicide attack on a CRPF convoy, travel on the highways has become especially problematic because it is the movement of the forces’ convoys which is prioritized while nobody seems to be bothered about the civilians. The explanation put forth is that these measures are taken to prevent any untoward incident from taking place. Even though there is little scope to dispute what the security agencies say, but then, at the same time, one is well within right to ask if the only way of doing this job is by putting the common people to inconvenience and subjecting the innocents to humiliation.
It’s unfortunate, but it’s true that the armed forces’ personnel, including even the local police, deployed here have not been programmed to behave properly with the public. The only way and style they seem to know is asserting their authority through the power they enjoy. And this is what they do each time even when they approach anyone for frisking his or her person or vehicle. This is certainly what infuriates the people and pits them against the men in khaki. Although majority of the people here have over the years evolved with a kind of “no questions asked” response to all such humiliations and very rarely do they show visible resentment now, but this does not mean that such behaviour of forces’ personnel is acceptable. People resent it and resent it badly, and this resentment remains etched up in their hearts and minds in the form of hate against the very systems these men in khaki and olive greens represent.
Of the many factors responsible for the turmoil is Kashmir, the biggest contributing factor has been peoples’ alienation from and with the system. Even as both the political establishment as well as the security top brass have all along been very vocal about ending the peoples’ alienation, but fact of the matter remains that precious little has been, and is being done on ground to take care of the public alienation. On false and frivolous pretexts people are stopped and made to wait for no visible reasons, frisked and asked even absurd questions, which are at times very humiliating, and of course have nothing to do with security. Similarly, there is complete lack of coordination between various security agencies and their different parties deployed along a particular route. For instance, if a vehicle moving towards a particular destination is stopped somewhere enroute and frisked, say by a police party, the same vehicle will again be frisked at another ‘naka’ a few hundreds metres away and again frisked by a CRPF or a different police party. And in the countryside there will be a few checking points manned by the Army troops as well and their behaviour is more crude and harsh, perhaps owing to their bigger arrogance of power.
Nobody is against the frisking of pedestrians and moving vehicles. Ensuring safety and security for forces’ convoys and establishments is ok but nothing that puts common people to unnecessary inconvenience is acceptable, particularly when creative thinking, better coordination and a little bit of polished behaviour can easily avoid all these hassles and minimize peoples’ troubles. Those at the helm need to put the public welfare and goodwill also somewhere in their priority list. Otherwise all measures taken for security may not doubt yield results on security front but they are certainly counter-productive on the scale of public perception. And this is unfortunately an area which has been neglected all along, because the state never really thought of managing the popular perception here the way it concentrated on managing its military dominance.