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Road to power changes for the first time in 27 years
By Masood Hussain

SRINAGAR, Oct 28: For the first time in 27 years, the centre of power is changing in Jammu and Kashmir. Till recently, in Srinagar, it was 40-Gupkar-the home to Abdullahs that lies behind a series of drop-gates in the most secured area of the city. 

A huge concrete wall shields it from the front from possible projectile attacks while the hillock protects it from the rear. No bird could chirp in the area unless permitted by the ubiquitous security men that dot the three-lane street. Names of all arrivals and visitors were being flashed on radio as CCTVs would remain on a round the clock lookout.

Apart from cops manning the drop-gates, paramilitary men housed in bunkers around, it was the NSG that provides the cover to the most threatened family. In Kashmir that is ravaged by over 14-years old insurgency, an estimated 400 people live under security. Governor and the Chief Minister have extra-ordinary security set-up. Three years back state legislation led to the creation of state's own special services group (SSG) for protection of the CM and his family. Equipped with all the modern gadgetry, it has headquarters near by.

Perhaps for the first time since 1996 the vehicles carrying media persons are being only stopped at the dropgates on Gupkar road and permitted to move ahead without routine investigations. Usually, unless a radio flashes the message of a visitor's arrival at the main drop-gate, cops manning the iron-gate will not open the traditional 7-lever lock behind which now only Dr. Abdullah lives.

Omar Abdullah, it is recalled, had recently shifted from 40-Gupkar to the neighbouring Gupkar-I alongwith his wife, two sons and four dogs saying there was least space available at the ancestral home of Abdullah's. In Jammu, Dr. Abdullah already vacated the official residence of Chief Minister and shifted his belongings to his multi-million Bhathindi home in the outskirts of the temple city of Jammu.

These days, there are quite a few visitors, Says a policeman outside: "Usually, we had a daily rush of around 500 people at an average but now it has gone down. Some party leaders, some MLAs and a few workers do keep coming." His colleague says barring a few officers-including those, whose presence in Dr. Abdullah's close coterie was a source of embarrassment to the NC, state's officialdom has abruptly stopped their routine morning-evening visits.

Rumours are agog that some officers may resign, a few may apply for long leaves. Even one is said to be ready to fly abroad once the new government takes the oath of office. Though publicly the PDP leadership is maintaining that it will avoid any kind of witch-hunting, the party is committed to probing certain cases of corruption. This has made a section of the officialdom especially the officers "Loyal to the royals" a scary lot. These include "advisers" to the Chief Minister, most of whom have already tendered resignations.

"A few may be sent on deputation", said a PDP insider.

Admitted an officer, who in his two decade services has not got an anti or pro-NC tag: "Well, the verdict is there. But for last two decades we bureaucrats are used to frequenting Gupkar in such a way that it sounds quite strange that abruptly we are told the road to power has changed."

It might be difficult, but officers do have a great adaptability. They follow the centre of power. While NC veteran Ali Mohammed Sagar, who was also the home minister, had won his seat, the police did beat him and registered an FIR against him, the same evening results conveyed NCs worst debacle ever. "This happens in politics", Sagar says.

In fact the same evening State Police Chief AK Suri, whom PDP had recently termed an "NC card holder", took both his immediate colleagues and went to Nowgam in the periphery of the city - where Muftis reside- for, what observers say "Shakti Puja". Unlike Gupkar, the road to Nowgam is run-down and grubby.

Seniors in police do apprehend that PDP - in order to keep its commitments to the people- may target some of the officers for violations of human rights. Reorientation and re-location of Special Operation Group (SOG)-a tiny section of the police that is fighting militancy amid massive allegations of misuse of power - is already part of the PDP led alliance's CMP dubbed - "the official bible". 

Besides, the government is going to start the investigations of all the custodial deaths. Some of the elected MLAs do want the cases against some of the officers to be registered for murder and torture. The police may go for a massive overhaul and many heads are expected to roll including some super-cops.

Unlike distressed Gupkar, Mufti's two-storeyed house is the centre of celebrations. Hundreds of people come from the countryside carrying green flags and shouting - Nara-e-Takbeer Allah-o-Akbar. So is the rush that young men selling garlands have parked their cart just at a deserted place and they are making good business. Women alight from trucks and go dancing to Mehbooba Mufti and embrace her. For most of the days after October 10 when the results were declared, PDP leaders remain crushed under the load of garlands.

Though SSG has taken over, they had to face the wrath of the people on Monday when they came in between Mufti and the people. "Farooq has gone. He ruled us through you, but no more, so do not come in between" they were told. Even Mufti wanted them not to prevent people.

There are cops but no restrictions. So far, no drop-gates. No body carrying radio to flash messages of arrivals and departures. Doors are wide open -- indeed yet. (Kashmir Times)

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