The Jammu and Kashmir Police is under fire from the locals who have alleged that they have been arresting youths indiscriminately in “nocturnal raids” and extorting money from their families in exchange of the boys’ release. The accusations find support from many political parties and law makers in J&K who have issued similar statements against the police. Opposition leader Omar Abdullah has said innocent boys were being kept in police lock-ups and some of them are being slapped with PSAs (Public Safety Act).
It is in place to mention that in the current three-month long unrest, over 20,000 people have been arrested including 16,000 youth, according to locals and human rights groups. According to them, 600 youths including minors have been slapped with PSA and have been lodged in jails outside J&K. As the Special Operations Group (SOG) of J&K Police arrest stone pelters, people are queuing up before the local media outlets with “evidence” and alleging unscrupulousness on part of the police.
“My son had gone to fetch vegetables and milk at Darbagh Harwan and a police Gypsy rounded him up along with his friends. Finally, through an SPO of our area I could get my son back after two days in the police lock-up. I had to pay Rs 25,000,” said Muhammad Irfan Malik (named changed), a resident of Darbagh Harwan.
It is alleged that there is a nexus between the police, SHOs, and SPOs on the ground and the mainstream political activists who finally broker deals for the release of the youths. “The extortion by the police in the current unrest is fast turning into an industry,” alleged Muhammad Akbar Lone, former minister and senior leader of the NC. Human rights activists and civil society members have appealed to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to order a probe on alleged cases of police taking bribes.
“My son was arrested at Mehjoor Nagar when he was coming back home and remained in police detention for 10 days. I finally secured his release by paying Rs 60,000,” alleged Zahoor Ahmad (named changed), a resident of Budshah Nagar, Natipora, Srinagar.
A senior police officer in-charge of Srinagar, when contacted by this newspaper, assured prompt action if any of the allegations are brought to his notice. “We have video footage of all the miscreants arrested by us and there is no room for police to release any of them on any pretext. I have received a few complaints and I will investigate them,” he said.