The Bharatiya Janta Party’s district Vice-President for Anantnag, Gul Muhammad Mir, was shot dead by suspected militants in Verinag area of south Kashmir on May 4 — less than 48 hours before the Shopian and Pulwama districts of Anantnag Parliamentary constituency went to polls. A senior BJP leader in his 50s, Mir was shot at his home in Nowgam village, which comes under the same Anantnag Parliament seat, but has already voted. The wounded man was rushed to hospital where the doctors declared him dead on arrival.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has condemned the killing, the state BJP unit accused the government of failing to safeguard Mir’s life.
The state BJP spokesperson Altaf Thakur alleged that Mir’s security was recently withdrawn, and the matter was taken up with the government but no action was taken. Seeking a high-level probe, Thakur held security agencies responsible for the incident. “His security was withdrawn by the authorities, currently he was without any security. We are holding security agencies responsible for the killing, because they withdrew his security despite writing to them,” Thakur told media persons.
Actually, in February 2019, the Security Review Coordination Committee (SRCC) that looks into such issues held its meeting. But, in an unconventional move, instead of a senior police official who was assigned the job, the meeting was reportedly chaired by Chief Secretary BVR Subramaniyam. As the Chief Secretary is the top-most official in the state, the police couldn’t obviously object to the apparently unconventional move of their superior.
The meeting reportedly ordered the withdrawal of the security of dozens of protected persons, including prominent personalities like the bureaucrat-turned-politician Shah Faesal and the globally acclaimed academic Amitabh Mattoo.
Ironically, in one such case, while Z-security granted to an undergraduate journalist in Kashmir was apparently upheld, the security of a Jammu-based daily Early Times, which has reportedly been on the hit list of militants, was withdrawn.
In a similar case, prominent socio-political activist Irfan Hafiz Lone, whose father was killed by militants, was de-categorized from the list of persons provided security. In his appeal, Irfan, who previously contested Assembly elections, pleaded before police that he has a threat to his life, but to no avail — the withdrawal of security triggered widespread outrage. Though the security cover of a few was subsequently reinstated, most others were asked to “wait till fresh review”.
As militants are obviously not expected to wait for the next official review of the security, for them, the BJP’s Mir was a sitting duck.
The question remains — how could the Chief Secretary reportedly chair a meeting, which was officially not his jurisdiction? As per the norms, the SRCC committee, till then, was headed by the State Intelligence Chief, who happens to be the Additional Director General of the CID wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police. The other members include officials from intelligence agencies including IB and top police officers, but not the Chief Secretary.
As per a news report published on April 8, Governor SP Malik had reportedly expressed his displeasure over the Chief Secretary apparently presiding over the security review meeting, in which the decision to withdraw the security was taken. On April 9, Raj Bhawan issued an order by virtue of which the SRCC was divested of its decision-making powers and it was made an advisory committee.
The final decision, now onwards, will be taken by the Governor or Chief Minister, but in consultation with the Director General of Police.
Though the Chief Secretary will no longer be able to chair the SRCC, the reported experimentation with security has seemingly proved deadly. As a result, a decision to withdraw security of someone under perceptible threat, who eventually gets killed, cannot be downplayed as mere negligence.
As of now, in the wake of the killing of the BJP leader, politicians look insecure.
The BJP’s district president for Shopian, Javaid Ahmed Qadri, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Assembly elections from the constituency, is just one of them.
Though defeated in the polls, Qadri is credited for having bagged around 4000 votes, the highest for any candidate for the BJP in Kashmir, during the previous assembly elections.
His popularity in the party can be gauged from the fact that, at that time, even BJP President Amit Shah had visited his residence in Shopian — a hotbed of militancy. But now, Qadri complains of “absence of adequate security” that has left him confined to the four walls of his house. “I am unable to move out. Though I have a few cops guarding my residence, I don’t have any bulletproof vehicle that leaders from other parties have been blessed with by (Raj Bhawan),” he complains.
After Mir’s killing, some 20 BJP leaders from restive Shopian, who had no security cover, have taken shelter at Qadri’s home. “Our life has become hell,” Qadri told reporters. Previously, the SRCC with the ADG, CID as its head, not only used to assess threat perceptions to protectees, but also took a call on who needed security to what level and how to provide it.
But things have changed since the Chief Secretary reportedly chaired the meeting. Amid all this, when the state is under President’s rule, Governor SP Malik has called for a probe into such killings. However, apparently, the official accused of negligence has been asked to act as the jury. As per an official handout, “Governor has directed Sh BVR Subrahmanyam, Chief Secretary, to get an enquiry conducted into the killings of political people belonging to various political parties in the state in the last few months.”
“Governor has asked for identifying any lapses on the part of security agencies regarding ensuring the security of the political people and has emphasized that from now onwards, all political people should be protected at every cost.”
The Raj Bhawan decision on the probe only reminds me of this popular couplet:
“Mera Qatil Hi Mera Munsif Hai
Kya Mere Haq Mein Faisla Dega!”