This June, Kashmir Police Connect With Youth15 June 2011
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: The scene at Srinagar downtown’s Nowhatta area on Wednesday was quite opposite to what it witnessed in the third week of June last year. The hotbed of massive street protests and stone pelting saw the police engaging with the youth with new ‘weapons’: gymnasium, sports facility, library and computers. The Kashmir police’s initiative to connect with the youth has come after its image took a severe beating in the 2010 summer turmoil. “Youth’s vision in Sher-i-Khaas (downtown) could not expand due to unfortunate situation prevailing for two decades. Such facilities will act as a space for the youth to understand the policeman, who too has family and heart,” state home minister Nasir Aslam Wani while inaugurating the first youth club inside separatists bastion Nowhatta. The area, which houses the historic Jamia Masjid headed by moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, witnessed stone-pelting for more than five months last year. The killing of school a boy in the same area on June 11 engulfed the whole valley in a cycle of street protests and violence, which left 113 people dead and hundreds inujured. Among 5,000 protesters arrested from March 2010-March 2011, around 1,000 youth were detained from Srinagar city. More than 30 youth are still on the run for stone-pelting. At least ten boys died in street protests, mostly in police firing, last year in Srinagar district. “Sher-i-Khaas lacks infrastructure that leads to frustration among people who then start pelting stones. This place is full of talent and should be utilized to its best,” said state parliamentary and justice minister Ali Muhammad Sage adding, “people here are egoistic and their ego should not be hurt. Hug them once, they will respond with ten hugs”. The government is planning to hold police recruitment rallies in all police zones of Srinagar. “The youth has right to prosper here. The police will act as catalyst and help youth to clear civil services and professional examinations by providing books and coaching,” said director general of police Kuldeep Khoda. The Union home ministry has warned the state government of another 2010-style unrest if the separatists are allowed to galvanise support around any human rights abuse by the security forces. “Police have to be people friendly and that will yield results,” said Sagar. The volatility of the area was obvious from the deployment for Wednesday’s function. Hundreds of security personnel were fanned out in all lanes leading to the venue to keep any miscreant at the bay. A entire main road was closed for traffic for smooth conduct of the function. “Such sports, leisure and study facilities will be started across the valley. A state-of-art multifacility centre will be opened soon in Srinagar with tennis and squash facility too,” said Wani. The state government is trying its best to rope in youth, who participated in the unrest. Police are planning sports tournaments across the valley. The newly-elected panchayats have been tasked to handle youth affairs in villages to stop them from going into separatism.