A police official said that efforts were underway to trace the missing duo

A personal security officer (PSO) of a BJP activist and his associate were reported missing along with two weapons on Sunday night in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.

Official sources said that during the intervening night of December 12 and 13, Saqib Ahmad Tantry, who was deployed as PSO with BJP activist Abdul Rashid Zargar, allegedly fled with two weapons. Zarger, a protected person, is putting up at the PWD building at Salkoot, Kupwara.

Saqib’s associate, Arif Ahmad, a resident of Bohipora, Kupwara, is also missing, they said.

A police official said that efforts were underway to trace the missing duo. “Saqib had come to his house and then left. His family told us that they are also searching for him,” he said.

Although the police-militant nexus in Kashmir dates back to the early 1990s, the trend of cops deserting with weapons to join militancy emerged only after 2015. However, in the last two years, after authorities took several measures to prevent such incidents, the trend has declined.

A few dozen incidents of policemen deserting the forces along with service weapons have been reported in Kashmir in recent years. Several policemen-turned-militants were later killed in encounters with security forces.

In April 1993, a few thousand police personnel had reportedly rebelled out of anger at the death of a colleague, Riyaz Ahmed, allegedly while in army custody. The army and the paramilitary forces with the help of armoured cars in a pre-dawn swoop on the Police Control Room (PCR) in Srinagar had to disarm 1500 odd rebelling policemen.

While the 1993 strike by the policemen was spontaneous, today the actions by cops are well-conceived. More than 100 members of the J&K police force face charges for abetting separatism and many more are said to believe in Kashmir’s right to political self-determination.

“This (running away with weapons) is a really worrisome trend and we are looking into it. Though some measures had been taken in the past to stop this trend, the latest incident is a wake-up call for the police force to take more preventive and corrective measures to stop this in future,” a senior police officer told DH.

Asked what prompts policemen to leave lucrative jobs and join militant ranks, where death is evident, the officer explained: “Social media has made militancy a 24x7 lived reality for everyone. The pictures, videos uploaded by the militants glamorize jihad, ensuring that a steady trickle of the impressionable youth is taken in and join militancy. In some cases, a few policemen also fall prey to the propaganda.”

However, among more than one lakh strong force which has been fighting militancy for the last almost three decades, only a handful of policemen will acknowledge anti-India or pro-separatist bias. Local police are the prime target of militants and hundreds of cops have been killed in Kashmir in the last 32-years.

“You have to expect that some policemen will have to face internal ideological conflict. At one point, he’s a Kashmiri, second, he’s Muslim. Because of these two facets, he is in a moral dilemma. He has to oscillate between extremes,” the officer said.