Another Renegade Group In The Making?

21 September 2008
Greater Kashmir

New Delhi: People in this south Kashmir district fear the spectre of the dreaded Ikhwan, a government-sponsored militia [renegade group] accused of committing worst human rights abuses, raising its head again. Their fears have been strengthened by the launch of a fast-track recruitment of Special Police Officers (SPOs), a low-paid auxiliary police force used mainly in counter-insurgency and “extra-legal operations.” Without advertising the posts, the police on Sunday started recruitment of nearly 800 SPOs at the dak bungalow here. The candidates were not asked to fill up the application forms for the post, nor were any customary advertisements published in the newspapers. Instead the local cable television channels were displaying the advertisement for the past few days, asking the matriculate candidates to come for a walk-in-interview and physical fitness test for on-the-spot recruitment. The Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Range, Niyaz Mehmmod, while confirming the on-spot recruitment of SPOS said, “We have to induct nearly 800 SPOs, and such recruitment would be undertaken in every district. The candidates simply have to pass the physical fitness test.” Mehmood said the recruitment of 300 Executive Police Constables, the posts for which have already been notified by the Police Headquarters Srinagar, would also be conducted shortly. Many unemployed youth turned up for the SPO jobs on the first day. “We came to know about the drive from local cable channels,” said Riyaz Ahmad, one of the applicants. Lawyers and intellectuals have expressed concern over the recruitment, as they fear government wants to create an Ikhwan-like force to quell the peaceful pro-independence struggle. Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, a notable columnist and Reader Department of Law, University of Kashmir, termed the recruitment as “another attempt to destabilize the freedom movement.” “Whenever Indian state faces mass rebellion in Kashmir it creates new agencies to curb that. In 1947 a militia now named as Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI), and in 1965 Home Guard was created. Similarly in the nineties they created Special Task Force (STF) and in the mid nineties counter insurgent group ‘Ikhwan’, then STF was rechristened SOG. The results of such forces have gone waste and everybody can see that. Even this new formation would not help the Indian government to suppress the dominant sentiments of people,” Dr Hussain said. Mubashir Zia, a lawyer in the District Court Islamabad, said the worst human rights violations committed by the SOG personnel and government gunmen in the past 20 years, made him sceptical of the recruitment of SPOs. “This is another effort to use our own blood against us by recruiting the local youth, as the government has been doing since the past,” said Mubashir Zia.