Police survey in IHK is no way to improve security or win over Kashmir people

SRINAGAR: As if Indian Held Kashmir (IHK) does not have enough to tackle already. There is discontent over political rights and economic entitlements, disaffection with the heavy armed presence and disappointment that the PDP-BJP coalition government has not yet been able to secure adequate flood relief and rebuild infrastructure. And now it has emerged that the held Jammu and Kashmir Police have been asking residents of the Valley to fill out an intrusive questionnaire, Hindustan Times reported.

The ‘house hold detail’ form has some of the detail that is sought of citizens during a census, but with important differences. The Held Kashmir survey seeks to know the “approximate number of household relatives”, which is not only an odd thing to ask but also something families in the sub-continent will struggle to quantify.

There is a religion column, like in the census, but one which seeks more specificity, asking about the “sect, maslak” the family adheres to. It seeks the personal details of all family members, including their incomes, occupation and mobile numbers. The form also asks about daughters who have “married out” and asks for their spouses’ details.

This is by any reckoning a comprehensive profiling exercise, which has implications for ongoing debates on privacy. The J&K authorities have refrained from comment but will privately defend it on the grounds that security agencies need that degree of detail on the occupied state.

Still several questions arise. Why are only residents in the Valley being subjected to this? Is this a policy that will be extended to other border regions and states? The lack of transparency in an exercise like this lends itself to much misunderstanding.

Little thought seems to have been given to the optics of such an exercise. We live in an age where the State and private companies already have an immense amount of data on us owing to the different forms of identification we possess and the services we use online.

Electronic surveillance in J&K is, in any case, very robust following a quarter century of counterinsurgency operations and thus it is difficult to envisage the purpose this survey would serve beyond being an instrument of intimidation.

The question about details of daughters’ families and a separate one about a family’s links with the alleged militants are bound to generate worries about how such information is going to be used.

The measure undermines the Peoples Democratic Party politically and worsens the disaffection in occupied Kashmir.

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