//Kashmir SPOs caught between the devil and deep sea

Kashmir SPOs caught between the devil and deep sea

Faisul Yaseen

Hindustan Times , Jammu, November 13, 2006

The Special Police Officers (SPOs), recruited in the Jammu and Kashmir police and Indian Army, are caught between a devil and a deep sea.

They and their families not only find themselves at the receiving end of the terrorists but also have to remain content with mediocre wages.

Though they work side by side with police, troops and paramilitary forces in carrying counter-insurgency operations in the length and width of the conflict-hit state, they only get mediocre salaries of Rs 1,500 per month.

The remuneration is expected to be double to Rs 3,000. This matter was last time also taken up in the state Legislative Assembly, where the MLAs had agreed over the hike in their salaries. However, demand of the SPOs has been increasing their salaries to at least Rs 5,000.

The SPOs were actually terrorists who later surrendered and started working with the Special Operations Group of the Police. Later on, the SOG was disbanded and the SPOs were merged in the state police. Some of them continue to work with troops and paramilitary forces.

In 1995, a surrender policy for the terrorists was announced for the first time that was to get reward for each weapon surrendered. Subsequently, the National Conference government carried on with the policy, offering amnesty to the terrorists whose involvement was peripheral.

The policy known as "rehabilitation policy" was adopted in January 2004. Shun gun and take money and jobs was the mantra. Having worked as terrorists, the SPOs had a better understanding of the psyche of the terrorists and knew their modus operandi.

It was with their tips that the police and troops were able to crack a number of modules of various terrorists outfits operational in the state.

Quite a few SPOs are also killed in encounters with the militants while combating them working in unison with police and troops. There have also been instances when they have turned deserters.

Lack of motivation because of working for meagre salaries and operating under duress may be the reason for their deserting police and troops.

At times, according to reports, terrorist outfits have also planted them to work with police and troops. The trend of terrorists joining as SPOs started after a surrendered terrorists Mohammad Yousuf Parray alias Kukka Parray started working against the militants and broke the spine of insurgency in the state.

His group was known as Ikhwan-ul-Muslimeen. There were other groups too like Muslim Mujahideen. Surrendered terrorists are often referred in derogatory terms as "renegades". However, some of them found their place as informers with the army and also joined the state police as SPOs.