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Where does 'restraint' end, Mr Chidambaram?

Last updated on: August 17, 2010 08:55 IST

Image: A policeman takes cover as Kashmiri protestors pelt stones
Photographs: Reuters

The fury of Kashmir's stone pelters has left nearly 1500 police personnel injured in just nine weeks of turmoil. As they nurse their wounds, police officers and their men recall how stones rained on them from lanes and by-lanes of Srinagar and other urban areas of the Valley.

"We were under strict orders to exercise restraint. That explains the high casualty figure," said one officer from his hospital bed.

About 871 personnel of Jammu and Kashmir Police and 604 from the much-criticised Central Reserve Police Force were injured in pitched battles on the streets of the Valley since the violence began on June 11.

Many of them are still recuperating in hospitals.

Bruised yet high on morale

Image: A policeman tries to evade a stone thrown by a protestor
Besides suffering injuries, the policemen have also been subjected to other forms of intimidation such as threats to their families, attacks on their houses and calls for their social boycott.

Some of the injured are senior officers because they led from the front.

However, morale of the force remains high as indicated by a number of personnel reporting for duty as soon as they recovered from their injuries.

State Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda recently announced a grant of Rs 5000 to each injured personnel out of the Police Family fund.

In the midst of action

Image: A policeman prepares to fire a tear gas shell at the protestors.

Take the case of sub-inspector Imtiyaz Ahmed of Srinagar's Humhama police post. He suffered a broken leg and was hospitalised for several days.

Once out of hospital, he joined back duty though he encountered more trouble. A police jeep carrying him and his staff was chased by a stone-throwing mob. Trying to avoid confrontation, Ahmed asked his driver to quickly move out of the area.

In the process the vehicle fell into a ditch. He was back in the hospital with an ankle injury for a week.

Today, he stands at this important posting where he has to ensure smooth flow of traffic to the airport.

Cops' families have been threatened

Image: Cops take a break after patrolling duty in Srinagar

The instances of the state's police force -- whose revival in recent years has been truly remarkable -- being at the receiving end during the current turmoil are many.

Besides physical injuries, their families have been threatened and houses attacked.

The story of Constable Javed Ahmed, whose pictures of being beaten up by an unruly mob were shown on various television channels and newspapers across the country, was that of patience and restraint.

The constable, while exhibiting the highest degree of dedication towards duty, stood firmly against the lathi-wielding crowd.

To the hospital and back at work

Image: A Kashmiri woman argues with a police officer

"The constable was thrashed by stone pelters when he tried to reason out to them about the futility of violence. His half finger had to be amputated because of the injuries," a senior official said, adding, he could have fired in self-defence but he exercised self-restraint.

Bijbehara's Sub Divisional Police Officer Farooq Zargar is going around with a fractured nose after being hit by stones pelted by the protestors.

He was in Jammu for treatment and now plans to return to duty despite doctor's advice to take complete rest for a month.

'Our job is to protect people. But who will protect us?'

Image: Kashmiri protestors pelt stones at police personnel in Srinagar

"It has been a trying time. Our job is to protect our people. But who will protect us," said a policeman, who was also injured in stone pelting.

It has been a testing time for Jammu and Kashmir police personnel who are battling the fury of stone-throwers who have virtually paralysed the Kashmir valley for past two months. They have worked in the most trying circumstances without much appreciation.

Bashir Ahmed, Deputy Superintendent of Police in Budgam on the outskirts of Srinagar, was wounded when a big stone hit him in the leg 12 days ago. The protesters then attacked him with huge sticks and ensured that he sustains a fracture.

He left the hospital against medical advice, as his daughter is to get married this week.

Cops paying the price for restraint

Image: A policeman tries to evade stones thrown by protestors

Bandipora SP Sheikh Junaid has joined back duty though he still sports four stitches on his forehead.

The plight of another senior police officer Mehrajuddin, Additional SP of Anantnag, is no different as he too suffered injuries on his head.

Khoda had recently visited two hospitals in Srinagar to enquire about the health of his men.

He appreciated the restraint shown by them under the most difficult circumstances.

Notwithstanding the injuries, he found their morale high.

It's not just stones, but petrol bombs

Image: A Kashmiri protestor pelts stones on a bus carrying police personnel

In Srinagar district alone, 225 policemen have been injured since June, a majority of them suffering head injuries.

In Pulwama, another 77 were injured.

Overall, more than 871 policemen have been injured in the Valley, many of them suffering serious wounds.

Besides stones, petrol bombs are also often used by the rioters while targeting the police personnel.

Where does 'restraint' end, Mr Chidambaram?

Image: A battered police gypsy

Fourteen government and police buildings, including two police stations and two police posts, which were set on fire, were damaged in the last five days of protests and violence in Kashmir.

Protesters also damaged a police Gypsy at Sheeri in Baramulla and set afire a police vehicle at Samboora in Pampore.

A fire tender vehicle was also set ablaze at Lasjan bridge.

The government buildings damaged in the current unrest include a Railway station and Horticulture department office at Budgam, forest depot hut at Sangam, BDO office at Pattan and Handicraft building at Zaldagar.