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Sunday Special » People

Posted at: Mar 19, 2017, 12:02 AM; last updated: Mar 19, 2017, 12:02 AM (IST)

When trumpets fade behind J&K’s martyred cops

Majid Jahangir in Srinagar
Militants have threatened policemen’s families in J&K, because they know the cops are familiar with the terrain as well as the people. Many cops have died while taking on the militants. Their martyrdom shows peace is a very, very costly affair
When trumpets fade behind J&K’s martyred cops
Police officers carry the coffin of a sub inspector in Bandipora district. Photo: Mohd Amin war
The J&K police have been at the forefront of almost all anti-militancy operations. Since militancy began in the early 1990s, the police, with a strength of over one lakh, have lost over 1,500 of its men, including many officers, in the turmoil. 

While families of the slain policemen question why the militant attacked the cops, there is a growing anger against the police among the locals. This is largely due to the handling of law and order situations, particularly in 2008, 2010 and 2016, where they are accused of using excessive force.

However, J&K's Police chief S P Vaid says the police were doing a great job in a difficult situation. “Locals will empathize with the police if they realize the difficult job the police are doing.” 

The Tribune talks to four families of the policemen killed in the past one year.

Manzoor Ahmed Naik 
(His last call was to his son)

On March 5, critically wounded constable Manzoor Ahmed Naik, 37, of J&K Police's elite counter-insurgency unit called his wife Nasreena around 4 am. Panicked Nasreena could sense that something very serious had happened, as she was aware that her husband was engaged in an ongoing fierce gunfight in Tral sub-district in south Kashmir, about 130 km from her home.

"He wanted to talk to Ariz (his four-year-old son). I kept on asking if everything was fine and he responded saying he was wounded and wanted to talk to Ariz. I told him Ariz was sleeping, he insisted I wake him up. He talked to his son for a while and later asked me to prepare milk for him. Then he told me to take care of the son," recalls Nasreena about the last phone conversation with her husband.

A resident of Dachina village at Salamabad, Uri close to the Line of Control, Naik was killed, in a fierce gunfight which also left two militants, including Aqib Bhat an aide of Burhan Wani, dead. He had joined the police in 2002 and was the lone bread earner of the family.

Abdul Karim
(Son is born, a day after martyrdom)

Constable Abdul Karim Sheikh, 45, was killed on the last day of 2016 in north Kashmir's frontier district of Kupwara. Sheikh was fired at by militants from a load carrier when he signalled the driver to stop at a checkpoint at Handwara.

A day after his killing, his wife Bilquees developed a medical emergency and was shifted to Srinagar's only maternity hospital, where she delivered a baby boy.

“We named him Hijaz Karim,” Bilquees said. The widow is now living with her four children, the eldest being nine years old, and her paralytic mother-in-law Jameela at Mawar in Handwara.

Sheikh’s funeral at Mawar too witnessed a large gathering. He was employed as constable in 2014 and earlier served as a Special Police Officer (SPO) for nine years drawing a paltry salary. “We wonder why he was targeted. He is a shaheed because he never harmed anyone,” said a local resident from Mawar, on the key infiltration route.

Jalal-ud-din Khandey
(Brave & popular)

Last year when south Kashmir was on the boil, constable Jalal-ud-din Khandey, 35, was shot dead in a militant attack along with another cop in Kulgam in November. While militant funerals in south Kashmir have attracted many people, the crowd gathered at his funeral in Super Kulgam village showed how popular he was.

“He was was helpful to all,” said Khandey's cousin. He said that Khandey in his 13-year career served 10 years in the Jammu region and was never a part of any anti-militancy operation.

Khandey's wife, Shabeena Kowsar, was unable to speak, the suffering has been too much, she sobbed.

Ghulam Mohammad Bhat
(No anti-militancy record)

On May 23, 2016, militants of Hizbul Mujahideen shot dead three policemen in two separate attacks in Srinagar's Zadibal and Tengpora localities. Among them was assistant sub inspector Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, 58, who throughout his long service never took part in anti militancy ops.

“When my father was not involved in any anti-militancy operation, why was he targeted?” asked his son, Mohammad Yasin, a resident of Surigam village in frontier Kupwara district.

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