On March 4, around half a dozen heavily armed militants forced their entry into the house of a senior police official in Shopian district of South Kashmir, when he was out on duty. Though the militants didn’t touch his family members, they ransacked the household, leaving a stern warning for the official: “Ask him to quit the police job or face the consequences.”
The incident sent shockwaves across the security apparatus in the restive region. After a lull of four days, the Director General of Police SP Vaid roared on March 8 with a strong warning to the militants asking them not to drag the innocent families of troopers.
The DGP said, “Militants should realise they too have families. Let militants take this as a warning. This is between police and militants; families should not be brought into this conflict. If the police start doing this, what will happen to their families?”
Barely a day after the warning, the militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba reacted by seemingly extending an olive branch with regards to the mutual safety of families. The Lashkar Chief Mehmood Shah in a statement said that the militants “respect the families” of force personnel.
While rejecting that families of cops were harassed, the Lashkar said “till date the militants have never targeted the families of the forces. But after every defeat faced by the forces on the ground, the families of militants are being harassed. This should stop.”
The Lashkar chief added: “If they think that we can’t get them being outsiders then it’s wrong thinking on their part. It is not a big deal for us to get to families of each police official, but we respect their families. The DGP should work on the improvement of police’s behaviour and other forces.”
It is for the first time in last 30 odd years of armed conflict in Kashmir that police and militants have publicly spoken about families on the opponent sides.
Till now it was generally seen that families from either side were not dragged into the “professional” responsibilities. Though militants like Hizbul Chief Syed Salah-Ud-Din happens to top the list of “most wanted terrorists”, their families were never harmed. In fact, Hizbul Chief’s immediate family is living a comfortable life in Kashmir, with his sons and daughters employed in cozy government jobs.
Interestingly, such untold pacts between two groups at daggers drawn are nothing new in India. For years it has been an open secret that the underworld and police uphold the policy of “live and let live” for each other’s families. Many Bollwood movies like Shootout at Lokhandwala, based on true incidents, have shown such understanding on the family safety.
In Kashmir, such a pact between militants and government forces was rarely discussed. But Lashkar’s reaction to DGP’s statement throws a light on this untold story of mutual respect for each other’s families. Hope it continues to be so!