'Change Your Security Detail': Curious Case of SPOs Decamping With Weapons in Kashmir
The case of policemen looting weapons and joining militant ranks started in March 27, 2015.
Adil Bashir (wearing red T-shirt) seen standing with other militants.
Armed with advice, a Jammu and Kashmir MLA visited a fellow legislator at his government accommodation. “You should change your security detail and ensure your new guards are from Jammu area or the Karna in Kashmir,” the visiting MLA advised the other.
The trigger for such an advice was the startling event that took place in their neighborhood at the residence of PDP MLA Aijaz Ahmad Mir on September 28.
SPO Adil Bashir, a resident of Zainapora village of Shopian, had fled with seven AK assault rifles of Mir's personal security officers and the licensed pistol of the legislator from his Jawahar Nagar residence.
The incident was shocking for the security agencies and has alarmed them about the militant influence within the ranks. This is by far one of the biggest weapons loot in Kashmir.
Who is Adil Bashir?
During the 2014 elections, when Mehbooba Mufti, former chief minister and president of the PDP, visited Wachi constituency, Adil was the most vocal boy in her rally, raising slogans and even dancing.
“Mehbooba Mufti had to ask Adil to calm down when he began shouting slogans against National Conference,” said a neighbor of Adil, who was also present at the rally.
Born in 1994, Adil is fourth among five siblings. His father Bashir Ahmad Sheikh was also a militant in the 1990s. “He was arrested and later released after spending few years in jail,” a local said.
After completing his higher-secondary education from a local school, Adil was appointed as Special Police Officer (SPO) in Jammu and Kashmir Police in March 2017. He was also enrolled in Bijbehara College.
Zainapora is a small town famous for the largest apple orchard of valley, spread on 130 hectares. Pandits constituted nearly half of the population of this scenic town before they left the valley.
“Prior to joining police he was an active worker of the PDP and was upbeat in organising rallies,” a local shopkeeper of Zainapora, not wanting to be named, told News18. He recalled: “Adil would be on the roof of a bus with other youth campaigning for the local MLA.”
A local source said that when militants started threatening and killing SPOs, Adil was posted with the MLA. He was performing menial jobs at the legislator’s residence and had no weapon.
The day Adil looted the guns, other eight personal security guards of MLA were on “unauthorized leave” and the legislator was in Jammu. Police said that he was already in contact with militants and had executed the weapon booty with proper plan.
J&K Police announced Rs 2 lakh award for information on Adil. Srinagar city was put on high alert. Hours later, militants released photograph of all the looted weapons and Adil — with two rifles in hand, magazine pouches tied to chest — in a group of Hizbul Mujahideen militants amid an apple orchard.
The policemen who joined militants
The recent case is not a peculiar one. The case of policemen looting weapons and joining militant ranks started in March 27, 2015. Naseer Ahmed Pandit, a resident of Karimabad village of south Kashmir’s Pulwama, was posted as security guard at the residence of then PDP minister Altaf Bukhari. Pandit decamped with one AK-47 rifle and joined Hizbul Mujahideen. He was close to Commander Burhan Wani and was also featured in the “Burhan group” image — group of nine militants that became “reference” of the new age militancy in Kashmir.
Pandit was killed in April, 2016 in an encounter in Vehil village of Shopian district.
In January 2016, Shakoor Ahmad Parray, also hailing from south Kashmir’s Shopian district, deserted the police force. He was posted as Personal Security Officer (PSO) to Sub-Division Police Officer Bijbehara and decamped with four service rifles.
Two months later, he was arrested by police. Two grenades and a pistol was recovered from him. In August 2018, militants abducted him from his home and fired in his arm, leaving him injured.
In May 2017, Sayed Naveed Mushtaq, a constable in Jammu and Kashmir Police deployed to guard a facility belonging to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) in central Kashmir’s Budgam area fled with four service rifles and joined Hizbul Mujahideen.
Not just in Kashmir valley, but an SPO fled with a service rifle in Kishtwar district in January this year.
In Kashmir, there were three more incidents in which two J&K police personnel and an army man posted in Baramulla decamped with service rifles this year.
From 2015, there have been eight such incidents.
Worry for security agencies
“Internal sabotage is always disturbing,” Munir Khan, Additional director general of J&K police told News18. “A militant finding his way inside the system is definitely alarming. It will happen because proxy wars are waged by unfair means,” said Munir Khan.
In Kashmir, the local police personnel are fighting multiple battles now.
On one side, militants are killing the police personnel while on leave, alleging that local police are instrumental in all counter-insurgency operations and harassment of militant families.
On the other side, policemen joining militancy has created mistrust.
A police constable wishing anonymity said, “There is apparent mistrust in the cops who are particularly from south Kashmir.”
A legislator from south Kashmir said: “I am going to request police department to deploy those police personnel in my security detail who are from Jammu area and are not young.”
The legislator added, “There is always suspicion that a local policeman might be linked with militants. I feel more threatened in my security cover.”
“There is no lying that the anti-India sentiment coexists in the same house. Most militants are from the areas where seventy percent of people voted in last elections,” said PDP’s youth leader Waheed Para.
Apart from looking into it through bureaucratic eyes, he believes, the question as to what triggers it needs to be addressed.
“Why would youth join militancy? Why would they opt death not democracy?” asked Para.
(Aakash Hassan is a Kashmir-based freelance journalist)
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