.: Features

Date: 30 Apr 2011

Home ministry has cleared new methods of tackling unrest in Kashmir

Iftikhar Gilani, New Delhi

As the summer draws near, the union government and the government of Jammu and Kashmir are working on plans to prevent a repeat of last year when lives were lost in people-police clashes. The strategy is to control crowds without inflicting lethal casualties, and for this the union home ministry has circulated a new set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The SOPs are intended to maintain law and order and save human lives, a home ministry official said. They have recommended different drills to tackle a variety of situations like peaceful protests, violent protests, dispersal of crowd in narrow lanes and by-lanes, dealing with mobs indulging in arson including burning of government property, attacks on motorcades of protected persons and dealing with women and children.

Home Ministry officials say the new set of SOPs would be applicable all over the country. The ministry has suggested that the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) develop non-lethal weapons for police and paramilitary forces engaged in crowd control.

The SOPs also talk of using different equipment to disperse unruly crowds. With the concept of graded use of force, the SOPs have put the onus on officers to remain with the forces in such situations to maintain disciple and control under the worst circumstances.

The officers in charge of the units running amok or using excessive force would be held responsible. The SOPs have also fixed the duties and roles of magistrates. Under the new SOPs, the presence of magistrates has been made mandatory.

On the use of weapons, the SOPs have recommended using colour grenades, triple grenades, laser guns, pump action, plastic pellets, teargas with irritants and colour water cannons to disperse crowds. The colour water cannons have been tested successfully to control protests recently.

Five new battalions are being trained in dealing with non-lethal weaponry.

A joint training exercise has been underway near Srinagar for five months to ensure coordination between the Jammu and Kashmir Police and the CRPF. CRPF spokesman Prabhakar Tripathi said mock drills are being conducted by joint columns to ensure operational preparedness.

The new measures were recommended by a team of senior officers constituted last year to recommend measures to control crowds. The team, chaired by director general of Jammu and Kashmir police Kuldeep Khuda, included additional director generals of the police of Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the IGs of the Rapid Action Force, the Central Reserve Force and senior officials from the Intelligence Bureau.

Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.


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