All the right places

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BASHIR ASSAD

WITH R R Swain, an AGMUT cadre IPS officer of 1991 batch, taking charge as Director General of Police, Jammu & Kashmir on October 31, 2023, it is hoped the Security Wing of the police force would witness a major overhauling.

The Security Wing of Jammu & Kashmir supervised by an officer of the rank of Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) is responsible for providing security to ‘protected’ persons on the basis of threat perception assessed by the CID wing of the J&K Police. The Security Wing also mans important and sensitive installations, and also secures the venues for government and political events.

Since the very beginning of terrorism in Kashmir in 1990, the Security Wing of the Jammu & Kashmir police has been considered a pivotal agency for protecting categorised persons. The CID wing reviews categorisation IDs periodically and does fresh categorisation. By all means, the Security Wing of the Jammu & Kashmir Police is most significant since it is responsible for securing lives of protected persons whose number runs in hundreds which include political leaders of different shades and categories, civil servants, judges, media-persons, activists and people from many other walks of life.

However, it has been observed by the J&K High Court in 2020 that security is being provided to politicians and individuals on “flimsy grounds” so that they could use security guards as a “status symbol”. Following this observation by the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court in 2020, the security of protected persons was reviewed and rationalised on the basis of which it was either withdrawn or minimised on the basis of the threat perception to a number of politicians and individuals. The court had observed that the security cover was provided on the state’s expense for which contribution was made by the taxpayers and that “it is not a luxury to be provided to any person as a status symbol”.

However, the issue of infusing a culture of discipline and increasing accountability among the personnel of Security Wing deputed and deployed as personal security officials with individuals and institutions, goes unattended. It would not be an overstatement to say that personal security officials allotted to protected persons and whose number runs in thousands, are the least accountable ones among all government servants in the UT of Jammu & Kashmir.

When terrorists started slaughtering political workers and activities associated with various political parties in the early 1990s, the government provided accommodations to a large number of political workers in Srinagar and Jammu cities irrespective of their affiliations and loyalties, and only on the basis of the imminent threat to their life. Simultaneously the political workers and other individuals facing threat were provided personal security officials on the recommendations of political parties. Soon the security personal guarding PPs was recognised as a “status symbol”. There are many interesting stories around this, which cannot not be discussed here. Some evidential observations are as under:

  • Since there was a culture of threatening people on letterheads of terrorist organisations, many people would get letterheads of terrorist outfits printed and produce a threat letter popularly called ‘death warrant’. On the basis of such letters, security and accommodations would be offered to many people who later misused the security cover for minting money from people either on the promise of providing government jobs, or simply using the security cover as a status symbol.
  • A majority of the political workers who migrated to Srinagar and Jammu cities and were provided PSOs had no means of earning and were struggling to make the ends meet on a daily basis. As they came from a rural background, they had to leave whatever belongings they had back home. A deal was normalised by these poor jobless political workers. They would fix an amount on a monthly basis to be provided by the PSO who, in turn, would stay home and would only return by the end of the month for receiving salary from the department.
  • Many PSOs and drivers deputed with senior politicians like MLAs, ministers, former MLAs and former ministers and senior party leaders gradually took the job of personal assistants or house managers after they enjoyed the faith and confidence of their PPs. There are dozens of cases where a newly recruited police constable was attached with a protected person and reached the age of retirement with the same person. That means there are still hundreds of such police officials and drivers of the Security Wing or other wings who have been with the same person for more than 30 years. As and when the officers tried to transfer these police officials, they faced stiff resistance as the PPs (obviously the influential ones) approached the higher ranks for retention of such persons. In certain cases, the PSOs have taken over the job of party workers, house managers so on and so forth. A police official hailing from Sumbal Sonawari in North Kashmir, attached with a prominent political leader of South Kashmir for the last 20 years, is known to people as a political worker, not as a PSO. Similarly, a PSO was serving as a personal assistant to a minister in PDP led BJP government for six years. People had no idea that the guy was a policeman. In yet another case, a constable of the Jammu & Kashmir police is working as a driver with the son of a political leader for the last 20 years and is seen as a private person assisting the guy who is a contractor by profession.
  • There are PSOs attached with the wives of ex-ministers and political leaders, retired police officers who had never been transferred. Even, in certain cases, PPs don’t allow their PSOs to join the mandatory but very short training courses of one or two months, implying that they are indispensable for them.
  • Then there is the culture of absenteeism. PSOs allotted to PPs have had their own internal arrangement. Each one among the PSOs allotted to a PP would stay home on a rotational basis. If a PP has two PSOs, each one of them would stay home for 15 days every month. Under such a scenario the PSOs are no more professional and it is laughable that many among them even don’t have an idea of how to handle the weapons. PSOs could be anything but security officials.

One way to restore order in the Security Wing could be merger of Special Security Group with the Security Wing and complete reshuffle in the lower ranks and stern departmental action against the absentees. Also, there could be withdrawal of security to PPs who allow their PSOs to stay home, and identification of officials who are at one place for more than five years and in this case, no excuses should be acceptable. A rigorous training course should be designed for PSOs.

It is indeed hoped that the much-needed overhauling in the Security Wing would be taken up so that it is best utilised and also most constructively.

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