Asserting that the law-and-order incidents across the Kashmir region have “dropped by nearly 90 percent” in 3 years since the revocation of J&K’s special status compared to the preceding 3 years, an IPS officer of the 1997 batch, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Kashmir, Vijay Kumar, in an exclusive interview with Greater Kashmir’s Senior Editor, Nazir Ganaie, spoke on the wide range of issues including the current security scenario, law and order situation, civilian killings, Police reforms, Police-public outreach programmes, and much more. Excerpts.
Greater Kashmir (GK): How is the security situation across the Kashmir region now?
Additional Director General of Police (ADGP): The situation across the Kashmir region is quite conducive. Police ensure that besides anti-terror activities, civil and criminal cases are taken up on priority. The law-and-order incidents in Kashmir have dropped by nearly 90 per cent in three years since the revocation of the erstwhile state's special status compared to the preceding three years. We earlier shared data with the Press regarding the magnitude of the security scenario in Kashmir and also figures like from August 5, 2016, to
August 4, 2019, the Valley witnessed 3,686 law and order incidents. However, for the three years from August 5, 2019 – when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status and bifurcated it into two Union territories – the Valley recorded only 438 such incidents – which is a drop of over 88 to 90 per cent.
Greater Kashmir: But during this time a number of civilian killings also happened.
ADGP: While 124 civilians were killed in law-and-order situations in Kashmir in the three years prior to August 5, 2019, no civilian was killed since then. Not a single civilian got killed. Similarly, six police and security forces personnel lost their lives in such situations from August 5, 2016, to August 4, 2019, but there was no such case since then. Nearly 930 terror incidents were recorded in the three years before August 5, 2019, and this number dropped to 617 in the next three years. Three years before the abrogation of Article 370, 290 security forces personnel were killed in terror incidents in the Valley, and this number dropped to 174.
Greater Kashmir: When you compare the situation with the post-constitutional changes in Jammu and Kashmir. What does it convey?
ADGP: Because there are no hartals now. No stone-pelting incidents were reported. That also saves a lot of youth from getting killed. As far as civilian killings in other incidents such as terrorist attacks are concerned, the number dropped from 191 to 110 in the three years after August 2019.
Greater Kashmir: Can you spell out this year's achievements of the police in the Kashmir region?
ADGP: In the year 2022 and till now. Nearly 93 encounters took place in which 172 terrorists were killed including 42 foreigners, 130 local (LeT/TRF) 108 of JeM 35, HM 22, AlBadre 4, AGuH 3. Meanwhile, nearly 100 recruitments took place and of this 100-recruitment maximum, 74 joined LeT/TRF outfit) (out of these 100 recruitments, 65 terrorists were killed in the encounter, 17 terrorists were arrested and 18 are still active. We have also so far arrested 17 categorised terrorists, 142 terror associates and 488 OGWs arrested.
Now if you tell me to sketch our achievements on the law-and-order front. No hartal, no internet shutdown, no street violence, and no stone pelting especially at the encounter site observed. There has been no procession during the funeral of terrorists and no glamorization of terrorists observed. No civilian killing in firing by police/SFs while handling law and order problems happened. We have tightened the noose on such activities and carried continuously against Jamaat-e-Islami and Hurriyat. Our achievements on the anti-terrorist front have been many as there is a drastic decline in terror incidents with the total number of terrorists brought to double digit. All top chief, top commanders of terrorists got neutralised except HM’s chief Farooq Nalli of Kulgam and LeT commander Reyaz Sethri of Pulwama. There is a continuous decline in the recruitment of new youths in terror ranks. 85% of newly recruited terrorists got neutralised in encounters within one month only. Now the trend is that the house owners started denying shelter to terrorists and the parents don’t feel proud once their ward terror ranks. Rather they usually cursed terrorists. Appeal their wards to return back and work together with JKP in order to bring them back. We recovered a huge cache of weapons in 2022 and the timely seizure of IEDs and sticky bombs, Grenades averted major terror attacks. We also ensured a terror incident free yatra.
I must reinstate that parents are also showing great trust and cooperation with JKP. More than two dozen teenagers were brought back and they are studying, and working normally. We have also enhanced the tenant verification process in Srinagar city and other districts. This is going on to deny easy harbouring of terrorists. Also, the Police Station, Cyber, beside handling financial fraud cases are providing great assistance in terror crimes.
Greater Kashmir: How many weapons were seized during these encounter sites?
ADGP: Total 360 weapons including (AK47/56/74 nearly 121, SLR:2, M4 carbine: 8, 229 Pistols, were seized in encounters and terror modules.
Greater Kashmir: Talking about the law-and-order situation. How many killings occurred during this period as Police, SIA and NIA massive operations?
ADGP: Nearly 26 law and order-related incidents have happened. The total civilian killed by terrorists in such incidents has figured at 29. Out of these 29 deaths, 21 are locals (Kashmiri Pandits 3, Hindu 3, 15 Muslims and 8 are outsiders (Muslim, 2 Hindu 6). In such incidents, 26 security forces personnel laid down their lives (JKP 14, Army 7 , CRPF 3, RPF 2)
Greater Kashmir: J&K police have launched massive operations against drug trafficking. How grave is the issue?
ADGP: See, the situation is quite a concern for us as a society. For us, as a security force, we also see a lot of angles to it. So far nearly 6 narco-terrorism cases have been registered. Nearly 946 cases of NDPS registered in which 1560 persons have been arrested and huge quantities of contraband including 46 kgs heroin, 200 kgs Charas 11.8 kgs brown sugar etc seized. Besides that, 132 drug peddlers have been booked under PIT Act. Importantly, in 49 terrorism-related cases, properties have been attached. In all our 106 police stations across the Kashmir region, we get diversified complaints including crimes, terrorism and which the police are always at the forefront to resolve on priority.
Greater Kashmir: While the police force is more concentrated on anti-militancy operations. What about the police's performance regarding solving criminal cases like theft, murder etc?
ADGP: See, this is very important. We aren’t just a force that is involved in anti-terror activities. There are so many criminal cases that are being addressed on a daily basis. Our team of Investing officers in every case is doing a remarkable job. I have asked my SSPs, and SDPOs to share such events, incidents and details in a systematic way with the press and for the knowledge of the people at large.
Greater Kashmir: What are the areas that are militancy free in Kashmir?
ADGP: The Year 2022 saw a remarkable decline in militancy. There is no local terrorist in Ganderbal, Bandipora and Kupwara, and districts like Baramulla, Budgam, Anantnag and Srinagar have only one local terrorist now.
Greater Kashmir: While the ceasefire is on, how is it helping in the dwindling number of militants across the Kashmir region?
ADGP: The credit for the decline in the militancy graph goes to Jammu and Kashmir Police and other security forces, most importantly the parent, whose wards had shown a sign of joining terrorist outfits. I must say, parents, have shown great trust in the security forces. Parents and Police have jointly brought several misguided young boys from terrorism to normal life.
Greater Kashmir: Are there any guidelines for the press on what to report and what not as scores of journalists have been booked and some have been called for questioning? What are the guidelines?
ADGP: We don’t keep any surveillance on the journalists who report the ground realities. Not at all. We just want that lies shouldn’t be propagated. Press Council of India has issued guidelines for the press. We want our viewpoints not to be altered and misreported. Let them do their analysis the way they want.
Greater Kashmir: What are the latest weaponry and vehicles the police force has got. How are these latest weapons including drone technology transforming the police?
ADGP: I wouldn't like to bring this information into public domain due to security reasons.
Greater Kashmir: Police started a campaign for the installation of CCTVS at all the vital city and town landmarks, shops etc. How successful is this CCTV spread and how it helped the police.
ADGP: It has helped us a great deal. Not just terror but other routine matter crimes are being investigated through this equipment.
Greater Kashmir: There are some poor shopkeepers who can’t afford it. Will the police have any scheme for arranging CCTVS for them?
ADGP: We aren’t the first in the country to start this. Even now remotest parts of the country do have such facilities and this is just to give safer and clean services to the customers. We had asked Srinagar Municipal Corporation/ Smart City Limited to assist us in this regard.
Greater Kashmir: How is the police hospital and drug de-addiction centre of the police doing?
ADGP: That comes under the Police Headquarters but I must say that you can still visit the drug de addiction centre and see nearly 45 addicts are undergoing a rehabilitation programme. Hospital is being upgraded. Additional trauma block is coming up and more and more machinery is being put in place.
Greater Kashmir: Any programme to have some more police schools as police is one one of the biggest employers in Jammu and Kashmir?
ADGP: That is a domain of the government and PHQ. But we are really working on upgrading the services and keeping doors open for the general public.
Greater Kashmir: How challenging was the burial of Syed Ali Shah Geelani?
ADGP: It was quite challenging for us. We had expected a sizable number of people on the streets. But we immediately put a ban on the internet because we had to ensure that no civilian life was lost. We requested the family and friends to cooperate and precious lives from getting perished. See, Pakistan had made an elaborate roadmap and they wanted to derail the situation. I decided to conduct the burial in the night only in larger interest of public. SSP Budgam made all arrangements and got the task finished in my presence. Everything was put in place. All rituals were performed in the presence of family.
Greater Kashmir: Being an outsider and serving important positions in Jammu and Kashmir police, what strength would you count for this long service?
ADGP: Laughs, I don’t count myself as an outsider. I am someone who has had all my service span extended in the Kashmir region only. I joined as a probationary officer at Kupwara and then moved to different postings in Kashmir only. I must tell you experience is my strength in serving Kashmir. Every officer comes with some character and integrity. And if you know how to lead from the front, your subordinates tend to follow you and obey you in totality.
Greater Kashmir: What are your apprehensions about 2023? Do you see any major challenges coming with regard to the security situation?
ADGP: We are keeping a strong vigil on everything and every development across Kashmir. The situation will be largely normal. We are apprehensive about soft targets as it is very difficult for us to provide security cover to a non-local street vendor who gets killed on the streets. When Parliament elections and G-20 meetings will be around the corner, we are apprehensive about the rise of soft targets. But our target is to accelerate the surveillance in this regard. Technical surveillance in Kashmir will be heightened as major events are expected in 2023 including Parliament elections, G-20 meeting etc. I must say guarding soft targets will remain a major challenge for security forces. Now, why are they resorting to soft targets? It is because their Combat strength has gone down. Most of their commanders have been killed and most importantly, the soft target is always newsy. It is called in our terminology ‘Low cost and wide impact.” We have been successful in bringing the terrorist number to two digits only. There are nearly 41 local terrorists and 45 to 47 Pakistani active in Kashmir. These are some achievements that police and security forces have achieved. Some experts were of the opinion that once COVID will be over, there would be mass agitation. Nothing of such sorts happened. We had seen that after encounters, a lot of youth used to assemble and get motivated to join terrorist outfits. We haven’t given the dead bodies of nearly 500 terrorists to their families and instead buried them in border districts with proper protocol and under the supervision of the executive magistrate. This too has further helped us to save precious lives of civilians. But, our new joint area domination plan, comprehensive anti-terrorist operations and action against terror ecosystem would certainly neutralise threat to soft targets. Enemy won't succeed.
Greater Kashmir: You have been talking about the role of parents. If you arrest any youth in such activity. Do you register FIR against them?
ADGP: In 2022. Very recently we apprehended nearly 27 youths who were on the way to join the terrorist outfits. We approached their families, involved their parents and got them back. A maximum of these youth belonged to south Kashmir, one from Srinagar, one from Budgam and Ganderbal each. They are all with their parents. Studying and working. No FIR was lodged against them. No action was initiated. It is just that we are keeping them under their parental care. We avoided sharing this in the press earlier. During encounters, a lot of youth used to assemble and pelt stones and this would later facilitate them to join them. However, we have been able to stop this trend. During my tenure, 555 terrorists have been killed in the Kashmir region only. This has demolished the terror ecosystem. Parents no longer feel proud of their kids joining the terrorist outfits. We have also made sure that these misguided kids are kept away from the influences. The glamorization that was attached to joining terror outfits had dwindled. Parental control is very important. One has to see what the son is getting into. Social media is ruining our children. Drugs are rampant and later the same chunk of youth goes into terrorist outfits.
The case of acid attack on a girl was solved and charge sheeted within two weeks and we are hopeful of a conviction at the earliest. Once the hotbed for terrorists in south Kashmir, Tral, no longer stands for Tora Bora of Kashmir.
Greater Kashmir: Why have more bunkers come up post-August 2019? Any specific reasons?
ADGP: I don’t see a lot of bunkers around. We have a lot of mobile bunkers in the city. There is no fun in installing endless bunkers. We have tied up with SMC to beautify the existing bunkers so that people don’t get scared on the roads seeing them.
Greater Kashmir: In your recent statement, you lashed out at mainstream politicians for inciting violence. What were you hinting at?
ADGP: Mainstream politicians in the Valley are trying to instigate people. Politicians must desist from instigating the public and destroying the youth. They condemn violence and don’t name the terror outfits. They are very selective. Unless they don’t name them and build societal pressure, the situation isn’t going to change. There is a dichotomy in their statements viz a viz terrorism. If a terrorist has killed someone, who later claims also. Politicians shouldn’t name them unknown gunmen.