In Service of the State: Medals for police who support violence and impunity
15 August 2016 marks the 70th Indian Independence Day and the 38th day of the present siege of Jammu and Kashmir. Over the last 37 days, the State has unleashed widespread and systematic violence against the people of Jammu and Kashmir with 60+ killings, 6500+ injured including 100+ partially or totally blinded by pellet shotguns. These 37 days mirror the conditions under which people have lived for decades with the last 26 years having resulted in 70, 000+ killings, 8000+ enforced disappearance, and countless cases of torture and sexual violence.
As in the past, the State has sought to control and suppress people through telecommunication clampdowns, denial of all rights including peaceful assembly, isolation from the international media, United Nations and other international organizations and through brutal violence at the hands of armed forces personnel including the Jammu and Kashmir police. All institutions – political, administrative, judicial and military – are rendered subservient to the territorial and martial interests of the Indian State, with an absolute disregard for the rule of law. Such service is in fact rewarded and encouraged through cash and other awards, medals and out of turn promotions. This system of rewarding violence has turned the armed forces personnel such as the police into mercenaries.
Today, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs has released a list of armed forces personnel to be awarded by the State on the occasion of Independence day. Most notably, present Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Syed Javed Mujtaba Gilani, is to be awarded the President’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service, 2016. As the focal point of local police action over the last 37 days, IGP Gilani is primarily responsible and accountable for acts and omissions of police and other personnel under his effective control and command. In addition to killings and injuries, the police, under the control of IGP Gilani, have sought to ensure impunity for all action by refusing to file FIR’s – including in the case of DSP Yasir Qadri who is accused of murder and the case has been litigated by the local government and police all the way to the Supreme Court. Further, in his public statements, IGP Gilani has supported the ongoing violence and sought to criminalize protestors thereby legitimizing further violence.
The awarding of IGP Gilani follows a familiar pattern where the Indian State awards persons who are prepared to use any and all violence in State interests and subvert truth and justice. In the past too, police personnel such as ex-DGP Kuldeep Khoda, ADGP SM Sahai, SSP Anand Jain and SSP Altaf Ahmad Khan have been awarded despite facing serious human rights allegations. This time too, DSP Ashiq Hussain Tak and Inspector Syed Gazanfar are being awarded the Police medal for Gallantry despite accusations of civilian killings [DSP Tak is accused in the July 2011 killing of Nazim Rashid Shalla and Inspector Gazanfar of the June 2011 killing of Junaid Ahmad Khuroo – both from Sopore]. Anger at the violence and support for the perpetrators, and frustration at the lack of any accountability and justice has led to local calls for action against police personnel and their families that Government of India, that claims to seek to win the trust of the people, has once again chosen to disregard by further rewarding violence.
On 15 August, Jammu and Kashmir will be under curfew [as it has been for the last 37 days]. The rewarding of IGP Gilani will serve as yet another reminder of the role of the Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir.