The Indian government recently attached five residential houses in Kashmir’s capital Srinagar. The Jammu and Kashmir administration alleged that the houses were used for “harbouring terrorists”. According to Srinagar Police, the owners of these residential houses were “wilful harbourers” of terrorists.
The police attached two residential houses in Parimpora and one each in Panthachowk, Nowhatta, and Zakoora areas of the Srinagar district of Kashmir. Srinagar police said that it had “clearly found” that “such harbouring was wilful, repetitive and without coercion”. The police claimed that militants conspired and planned many attacks on civilians and security forces while operating from these houses. The Srinagar police attached all these properties under section 2(g) and section 25 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
The police also informed that it had identified more such houses for wilful harbouring of “terrorists”. They warned that they will deal with “wilful harbouring” with the “full force of law”.
The police further warned that citizens should not harbour or give shelter to militants. The statement asked the citizens to inform the police in case of a forced or coercive entry by the militants.
How will the police differentiate between wilful and coerced harbouring?
It was in March this year that police had come out with a statement. The statement warned that the police will initiate attachment of properties that are used for the purpose of terrorism. However, the statement raised many eyebrows and questions. The police later clarified that they were aware of the difference between “wilful harbouring” of terrorists and “one done under duress”.
The police said that it will attach only those properties where it had been “proved beyond doubt” that the house owner/member had willfully provided shelter to terrorists.
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Onus on the owner
The police statement also added that the house/property owner should immediately inform the police in case of a forced entry by militants. It added that the “onus will always lie on the house owner/member to prove duress by informing the authorities well in time” about the forceful entry of terrorists/militants.
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Caught between two guns
The civilians in Kashmir have been caught between two guns. On one side are the armed militants and on the other side are the Indian security forces. They can neither refuse entry to a gun-wielding militant nor can they refuse to inform the police. In both these cases, they put their life and property in danger.
Questioning the attachments
The way the police in Kashmir have proceeded with the attachments raises many vexing questions. The police want property owners to inform them about the forceful entry. However, it does not guarantee them that their life will not be in danger. Even though the police may protect the identity of the informer, what is the guarantee that the militants will not attack the informer for revealing the information to the police? How will the owner or the family member be able to inform the police under the watch of militants in their own house?
The Jammu and Kashmir police do not want to go into the complexities of the issue. While some people might harbour militants willfully, there might be others where house owners and their members might not be able to do anything.
It is the gun/weapon that determines what civilians can and cannot do at any time in Kashmir.
Making informer out of everyone
By ordering the property owners to inform the police about the presence of militants/terrorists on their property, people fear that the police want to create an informer out of everyone in Kashmir.
Militarization of civil life in Kashmir
It is another step that militarizes civil life in Kashmir. There already has been a substantial militarization of civilian life in Kashmir. Civic-action programs run by the Indian Army and Indian Police have made inroads in a lot of homes in Kashmir. Under the Sadbhavna program, the Indian Army organizes all-India tours, sports events, and other various welfare programs for civilians. Under this program, the army also runs various schools all across Kashmir. It militarizes every home that it touches.
Further, the police in Kashmir also organizes various sports events, drug deaddiction campaigns, and other such welfare programs targeted at civilians.
These are public goods that should be provided by the civil administration. However, in order to make an impact and militarize civil life, it is the police and the army that provide various public goods.
A sports person in Kashmir today cannot make it to any team unless they participate in any police or army-organized event.
The police and the army handle various aspects of civilian life in Kashmir. The recent attachment proceedings and the warning to property owners to report militants and terrorists is another step in the militarization of civil life in Kashmir.
The civilians are being squeezed between two guns. It should be the gun against the gun. The administration should keep the non-combatants out of this fight between guns.