Srinagar: People in Kashmir are alleging increased incidents of police brutalities as the region is placed under a lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the region.
Healthcare workers, who are at the forefront of the ongoing healthcare crisis in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, are becoming prime targets for security personnel on the ground using force to implement the lockdown.
Abid Rehman, a healthcare worker at a Srinagar hospital, was returning from duty on Friday when police posted at Dalgate locality stopped him. "After showing my ID card and explaining that I work in the hospital, I was told by one of the policemen to remove the barricades to pass through, which I did. But another policeman stopped me again and despite his colleague's intervention, he beat me up ruthlessly," Abid said.
The 25-year-old worker who couldn't resume his work on Saturday due to the thrashing he received says he almost fainted and suffered nausea. "He hit my head so hard that i almost lost consciousness and then he hit me with a rifle butt... I can't even stand properly now," Abid added.
The police and the security forces in the region have laid concertina wires and barricaded most of the key routes in and outside Srinagar city. Those working with the essential services including healthcare workers also complained that their movement has become difficult despite their exemption from the restrictions.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Dr Haseeb Mughal, however, told NewsClick that there is no such case. "Every government employee working in essential services department is being allowed after due identification," SSP Mughal said.
Another healthcare worker from SMHS hospital said that the police are resorting to unnecessary harassment on the ground. "The police are saying now these essential ID cards will not work and that we have to get special passes signed by the District Magistrate for movement," he said. The employee says that the hospital administration arranges passes for them during the crisis situation for movement, which they have not done so far.
"When I asked the hospital administration about the special passes, they said they have no such orders; so, we have not got them. Who would explain that to the police?" the paramedic questioned..
The situation is becoming even more difficult as the authorities are being stricter to enforce the lockdown. "It is a mess, we were asked not to stock supplies. Then, they enforced a crackdown and now, we are not allowed to go out to buy food or medicines and we have to face violence. Our locality provision store is shut and we can't go farther. How will we deal with this situation if this continues for long?" a resident of Sanat Nagar told NewsClick.
Human Rights activist Khurram Parvez says there is a need to have training programmes for law enforcers on how to deal with a healthcare crisis like the one we are witnessing now.
"Mindset of administration, police and forces imposing curfew in Kashmir for protection against coronavirus needs to be demilitarised first. They need orientation courses by healthcare professionals, so that they don't continue to abuse and beat people in these trying times," Khurram said.
Earlier, on Friday, the J&K police acted against a lower-rank police personnel after a video surfaced on social media in which he could be seen using foul and provocative language against the locals in the North Kashmir area. The video was widely circulated on social media networks and invoked severe criticism following which the police have filed an FIR and disengaged the policeman, according to a police spokesperson. On social media, following multiple videos of police personnel’s high-handedness, many censured them for using excessive force against locals during the ongoing crisis.
According to the police official statement, since the lockdown, as many as 329 FIRs have been lodged against the lockdown violators and 600 vehicles and shops have been seized for non-compliance of orders by the authorities. The police have also traced about 1,200 persons with international travel history who managed to miss the screening after entering the region.
One person has died due to the coronavirus in the region and the total number of cases in Jammu and Kashmir reached 18 on Friday with over a dozen cases reported in just four days. 7 new cases have been reported on Saturday. Over 25,000 people have been reported to have died and over 5 lakh people have been affected globally due to coronavirus disease that originated from China's Central Hubei province. Among the countries worst-hit by the disease, Italy has reported maximum fatalities at 8,215, followed by Spain at 4,858 and China’s Hubei at 3,174.
Also read: How Long Can India’s Health System Fight Covid-19?