Over-militarising J&K

The Centre’s decision to raise five more battalions of Indian Reserve Police for Jammu and Kashmir is fraught with the perils of further militarising the state that is known as one of the most militarized regions in the world. Heavily militarizing an already disproportionately militarized area is not a solution to security. Nor is it the answer for addressing the acute unemployment problem. Jammu and Kashmir is already over-pressurised with the footprints of army, BSF, CRPF, other paramilitaries and an oversized state police whose numbers have more than doubled in the last two decades. Fresh battalions of police were raised on the logic that these would in due course of time replace the paramilitary battalions that would be gradually withdrawn corresponding to the decreasing number of militants. But while BSF and in some areas army was replaced with CRPF, there was no process of withdrawal; in some cases only shifting of battalions from one area of the state to the other.

The size of the security and police forces has grown ever since. Added to this huge size of the regular forces are the SPOs and Territorial Army recruits, both of which are not part of the regular police force or army. Many SPOs were involved in cases of torture, extortion and other mal-practices, even joining hands with militants and cases against them have not been pursued in the way they should have been.

Even as the number of SPOs multiplied in a rather thoughtless manner, there was never any adequate mechanism to discipline their ranks and the paltry sum paid to them further pushed them resort to illegal means. The SPOs began being recruited at a time when militancy was at its peak and even after the level of militancy was drastically reduced to a couple of hundreds, instead of disbanding the ad hoc force, more SPOs continued to be recruited purely on whimsical basis. About 28,000 SPOs continue to operate in different parts of the state. By any estimates, there is one gunman in uniform for every 25 persons. No peace has been achieved through such policies of militarizing the civilian space. The last thing, demands of peace or civility require in this state are additional battalions of uniformed personnel. Such an obnoxious growth of the military and militarized forces hampers the growth of a civilized society in a multiple ways and is at odds with a democratic norm.

If the policy is aimed at addressing the huge unemployment problem, it is an ill-conceived policy. The reports suggest that the 5 IRP battalions reserved for Jammu and Kashmir would be recruited from people within the state, primarily the youth from border areas. No doubt, unemployment and perpetual insecurity and instability at the borders is pushing the youth from these border belts to extreme frustration. But two wrongs can never make a right. There are ways other than luring youth to militaristic profiles to redress their issue of unemployment and shrinking avenues. The employment policy has to be rooted in the economic reconstruction of the state and giving a boost to its sagging economy.

There is need to tread the more pragmatic but unbeaten path of linking employment to the resources of the state and its potential of integrating these resources into an economic plan. The aim should be of constructing a sustainable economic model that has the natural potential of churning out jobs for youth instead of the present model of making it solely dependent of central funding and central projects like the power projects and railways project which leave the state impoverished and its people completely unengaged. Such a policy has squeezed employment avenues limiting them to government jobs and recruitments in paramilitary forces or police; or at best inspires brain drain on a massive scale. There is need to reverse that trend and create employment within with economic projects that are self sustaining.