All 7 SPOs are from south Kashmir, the hotbed of homegrown militancy. Sources say more resignations are likely as Hizbul threat looms.
New Delhi: The targeted killings of policemen in Kashmir and constant threats from militants appear to have taken a toll on the psyche of the personnel. At least seven Special Police Officers (SPOs) are believed to have resigned from the force, publicly announcing their decision on video.
However, the union home ministry has issued a denial, calling the reports ‘false propaganda’.
Certain reports have appeared in a section of the media that some SPOs have resigned in Jammu and Kashmir. The J&K Police @JmuKmrPolice have confirmed that these reports are untrue and motivated. These reports are based on false propaganda by mischievous elements.
— गृहमंत्री कार्यालय, HMO India (@HMOIndia) September 21, 2018
The targeted killings continued on the day of Ashura (when Muslims mourn the sacrifices made in the Battle of Karbala), with the abduction and killing of three SPOs Friday.
All the SPOs who have ‘resigned’ are from south Kashmir, the hotbed of homegrown militancy in the Valley, and sources said more are likely to follow suit, in the face of pressure and threats from militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen.
South Kashmir has been on the boil since July 2016 when Burhan Wani, the social media-savvy commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in an encounter.
A Facebook page called ‘Hamaad Hizbi Official’, which is allegedly linked to the Hizbul Mujahideen, threatened SPOs in a post just before 2 pm Friday (21 September): “SPOs have till this evening. Whoever values his life must resign by this evening, no resignations will be accepted tomorrow onwards.”
Who are SPOs?
SPOs are irregular recruits in the Jammu & Kashmir Police. They are recruited on the basis of need, and given basic arms training.
There are around 32,000 SPOs employed with the police department, who get a remuneration of Rs 6,000 a month. They are mainly part of the security agencies’ informer network in the Valley.
“SPOs were mostly ex-militants, and since they know the locality well, they are used in counter-militant operations. They become the targets of the militants because they work as informers. They use their own local sources to pass on information about militants, based on which the security forces conduct the encounters,” a source explained.
Distancing themselves from police
Shabir Ahmed Thokar from Kulgam said in his video: “I have been working as an SPO for the last eight years. Through this video, I want to inform the people that I have no connection with the police department from 20 September.
“I am leaving my job on my own will. I will support my kids and family respectfully. I release this statement on camera from my home without any pressure.”
Another video features Tajaullah Hussain Lone from Heepora, Batgund in Shopian.
“I have been working as an SPO for the last six years. I have resigned on 17 September. I came home the same day with all my belonging including bedding. I will stay home and earn my bread through apple orchards,” Lone said.
“I declare to have no connection with the police department from now. I had not released my video after I resigned, but only circulated my picture in public the day I resigned.”
Irshad Ahmed Baba, from Dangam, Shopian has also resigned from his position of constable. “From today, I declare to have no link with the police,” he said.
Nawaz Ahmed Lone from Tengam, Kulgam, said in his video: “I was working as an SPO. Today is 20 September, I declare to have no connection with the police any longer. I am leaving my job on my own will without any coercion.”
Another video, carried by NDTV, features Mukhtar Ahmed Lone from Shopian, who said: “I was working for the police department, but I feel threatened that the situation is very bad. I have family and children, who have been asking me to resign. The department told me it will take 15 days to process my resignation, but I’m not doing on duty beginning today.”
Others who have resigned include Mudassir Ahmed Rather from Kazigund (Anantnag) and Omar Bashir from Kaprin (Shopian).
The security scenario in the Valley has been grim after the announcement of panchayat polls and municipal elections. But policemen have been targets for the militants well before that.
Policemen — especially SPOs in the interiors of Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian — have become easy targets.
In July, posters, purportedly issued by the Hizbul Mujahideen, emerged in Tral and Pulwama, warning SPOs to resign within 15 days.
Ten people — all relatives of police personnel — were allegedly kidnapped by militants from three districts in south Kashmir last month. All of them were released after the police released Hizb commander Riyaz Naikoo’s father, who had been arrested.
Coercion and threats
The level of threat faced by policemen and their families could be gauged from another video that surfaced last week, which a former sarpanch was coerced into recording by militants. The video was posted by the ‘Hamaad Hizbi Official’ Facebook page.
“I was a sarpanch and now I am not. My son, Waseem Raja, was an SPO, and he has also returned. I will make him announce his resignation on a loudspeaker and the villagers should bear witness to it that he has resigned,” he said.
The man’s wife and the militant recording the video are audible, but out of the picture.
The militant then added from behind the camera: “We have restricted people from working as SPOs. No one should do this job from now.
“You must ensure that you have a resignation letter at home, and those who resign must also announce in the masjid that they have left the job. Resignation letter should be at home because we can raid any SPO’s home.
“Those who fail in producing the resignation letter before us, even if they have announced on the loudspeaker, would not be spared. We have clearly told it inn posters.
“We understand, it is a trap of the government to make their policemen announce resignation on the loudspeakers but then they continue drawing salaries from the department. Thus, resignation is important.”