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From a Torture Centre to ‘Dar-ul-Uloom’ to Techno Hub

February 14, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

torture center,Kashmir,

From a Torture Centre to ‘Dar-ul-Uloom’ to Techno Hub

Cargo’s Changing Avatars

Wasim Khalid
The Special Operation Group headquarter building- Cargo- in Srinagar always conjures images of fear and torture. It is entrenched in the people’s memories as a “dreaded” structure.The building surrounded by high walls mounted with coiled razor wires, had remained a ‘horror mystery,’ for the people of Kashmir.

Now as the authorities decided to abandon the building as torture and detention centre, the mystery remains short lived. But it is very hard to rub its history in the two decade long conflict.
People often refer to it as a building which has concealed gory secrets. That structure where militants and innocent both were detained and tortured till their bones would crack. An inaccessible building surrounded by men wearing green puffy jackets and olive bandanas on their heads, check posts, mobile bunkers, and ever gazing eyes which treat each individual as a suspect.
It was the same building where the authorities did not give access to Red Cross to visit the SOG headquarters. According to WikiLeaks, US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees in the cargo building.
But going down the history lane, one thing becomes clear-the state would not have controlled the insurgency, had Cargo not been there. Even if brutal methods were used to achieve that.
Armed with sophisticated technology, intelligence and men at its disposal, it served as the central nerve for police to fight militancy over the two decades to the limit that it is at the lowest in present times.
Origins of Cargo-Anti Insurgency headquarter
With the onset of militancy in 1989, the Kashmir Police was not ready to deal with the high “magnitude problem both, due to infrastructural lacking as well as physiological de-motivation”.
Police sources said in a situation when the cops have to stay back it was paramilitary troops leading the fight against militancy.
“They were alien to the land, though fought militancy, but suffered serious casualty and incurred collateral damage. The levels of the armed insurgency were far from receding, in fact, raised levels were sensed,” sources said.

Following that, the government at the highest contemplated that the fight against militancy could not be won without having the J&K Police at a pivotal position.
In May 1994, sources said a small operational group with less than 30men was found under the command of Farooq Khan as its first Superintendent. The group was stationed at a Cargo building at Haft Chinar, Srinagar, left-over by the old airport administration. The police worked in close coordination with other security agencies to achieve what police terms as “immense success”.
As the workload for the group seemed to be high, sources said the strength of SOG men was also increased gradually. Similar operational groups were established at other places of the valley to cater to the magnitude of the armed insurgency.
Subsequently, it led Kashmir Police to occupy a lead role in counter-insurgency operations. However, sources said as the operational component of the cargo became more involved against the militancy, it came under several attacks.
An attack on December 27, 1999 left an indelible mark on the history of the component. In this attack carried out by Al Badr militant outfit, 14 police personnel were killed including a Deputy Superintendent Ghan Sham.
Controlling Situation and Human Rights abuses
During the earlier years of its establishment, according to sources, intelligence inputs to counter insurgency were low and there was a greater demand from administration to control it. Therefore, the interrogation techniques comprised harsher attitude to yield quicker results. “Thus Cargo police component Srinagar earned a notorious name of ‘dreaded’ torture centre” sources reveal.
During the period also, the SOG was accused of abducting innocents and would release them on ransom. “This compounded the problem, even to the extent it was alleged that middlemen were used to get released the person against money. Everybody involved in it would get share of booty”.
Thus on one hand, sources explain that operational component of Cargo showed “good results” on counter insurgency front, on the other hand it put the repute of the force at stake. “It was realized by police that some good work should be put through to convert the operational strategy into a more palatable one,” says one of the sources.
Significant Changes after 2006
It was a time, when police had become strong both in armed capability and numerically. The government at last decided to put some intelligent officers at the helm of affairs in the Police Department as well as in the Cargo operational component. The first thing the officers did was in the last half of the year 2006, significant steps were taken to alter the “Standard Operational Procedure”(SOP).
This included minimizing the wide area crack-downs. Sources said the police also stopped picking relatives of the militant at least in Cargo.
According to police sources, “militant sympathizers” were not booked and physical interrogation involving “brutal methods” was stopped, adding, “These measures were complemented with adoption of scientific methods of investigations and culling out information,”.
Categorizing Militants
With the induction of reformed policy at Cargo, the authorities also changed the operational procedures to curb the militancy in Kashmir. Militants were divided in to four categories. “Category A comprised of hard core militants, mostly foreigners. Category B comprised of local commanders. Category C comprised of those elements who went in to militancy by circumstances and whose youth was exploited. Category D comprised of fresh entrants.
As a part of policy endeavors, efforts were made to persuade category B, C and D back to the “normal life”. “We used soft skill for this purpose. These skills gained us penetration in to civil society,” sources informed.
Following scientific and systematic procedures, complete modules of the militant outfits were worked out, including the orbit of each single militant. “The orbit comprised of over ground workers, the carriers and conduits as well as the contact group of the militant. Thus a thorough profile of each militant was build,” sources said, adding, “thus hunt for militants became easy without any collateral involvement. Interrogators were specially trained and fed with preliminary information regarding and militants and outfits. Thus while interrogating a subject as much as 90 percent of the information was available with the interrogator and extraction of the rest 10 percent had to be got”.
As the interrogation process evolved, it led to police counselling and “modifying” thought processes of militants. The police said the most important change in interrogation technique was countering religious doctrines of militants- which provided ideological base for them to fight troops.
“The interrogators were often Muslims and well versed with the doctrines of Islam. So this reduced the gap between the interrogator and the subject,” sources said. “The subjects were even fed religious discourses to counter their held view of the extremist version of Islam and de-radicalize their thought process”.
Not only militants, even separatists were counseled for their held “religious views” in Cargo. As a result, the once notorious detention centre was often satirically came to be called as “Dar-ul-Uloom Cargo”.
The police sources claim that reformed policy in cargo bore results as many reformed militants proved to be “good assets”. “Individuals whose offense was deemed somewhat excusable were not prosecuted but instead kept in good humour. These, in turn, proved good assets. This helped improve the image of the police force,” source said, adding, “Besides receiving information from these assets regarding the militant outfits, some desirable inputs were fed to them which helped, to a little extent, gain a foothold over the outfits to reduce their activity,” one police officer explained.
Utilizing Police stations
Another significant step by Cargo, sources said was to involve the police stations to utilize their services and potential for countering militancy. The over ground workers (OGW) were summoned through the local police stations for questioning.
“This gave a feel of involvement and sense of belongingness among the police station personnel with this prioritized sector. They were duly rewarded and awarded for the good work as per their share of contribution. Surveillance was maintained through police stations as well,” sources said.
The whole operational work was streamlined and synchronized it with the normal course of investigation. Police sources informed that a militant activity was treated as a normal crime and investigation as per the legal format was undertaken.
During the period from mid 2006 to start of 2007, the men of the Cargo component also fought the militants. Most notably among them were, Sher-i-Kashmir Park on May 21, 2006, fidayee attack on Standard Hotel at Budshah Chowk on October 4, 2006, fidayee attack at Brein Nishat on April 5, 2007; attack on CRPF camp at Zakoora on July 26, 2007; attack at Dewar Hotel Dalgate on October 11, 2007.
The period from November 2007 to 2010 remained largely without any significant incident till the Punjab hotel fidayee attack on January 6, 2010.
Recently, the authorities in 2012 decided to abandon the torture and detention centre as techno hub for Jammu Kashmir police. Although it is an effort to remove the darkest chapters of Kashmir conflict, it is hard to erase the memories related with the structure.

Feedback at wazkhaild@gmail.com

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