Rights

J&K Police Suspend Info Gathering Exercise in Jammu's Muslim-Majority Areas After Outcry

The issue came to the fore when locals from Muslim majority areas said that police were collecting personal information of tenants' families in these localities.

Srinagar: Following an outcry, the Jammu and Kashmir police have stopped the exercise to collect information about families living in Muslim majority neighbourhoods in Jammu.

The issue came to the fore a few days ago when locals from Bathindi and Sunjwan, the two predominantly Muslim majority areas in the winter capital, raised apprehensions that police, in addition to seeking details of tenants, were also collecting personal information on families living in these localities.

According to the locals, police had issued two forms to every house owner. While one form asked for particulars of the tenants, the “house owner verification” form, which drew consternation, sought complete details about family members. Many people from these areas took to social media to express their apprehensions about the move by the police.

Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu, Mukesh Singh on Sunday said he has taken note of the “apprehensions” and directed the Senior Superintendent of Police, Jammu district to immediately “rectify the format.”

“I have come across apprehensions of certain people in Bathindi and Sunjwan area regarding a format which is being circulated for verification. The format has been taken note of. It is asking for more data than is required,” the IGP said, in a video message.

He claimed that the form was primarily intended for tenant verification which was being undertaken for the “entire district of Jammu.” “I want to assure people that we care for their safety and security and we will take every step to ensure that they are safe and secure,” the IGP said, trying to assuage fears.

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Many house owners however said it was for the first time that, apart from details about tenants, they were being asked to provide information about families as well.

A resident of Bathindi-Morh said a policeman along with two persons in civvies arrived at his home and handed over the forms. “When I tried to inquire about the details being sought of the family members, I was told ‘the information is meant for Census’. I became conscious and raised the issue with other residents of the area,” he said, wishing not to be named. “Seeking personal details of owners including Aadhaar Card numbers made us suspicious of the entire exercise.”

He said while they were not hesitant about sharing the details of the tenants, seeking details about the families, and that too only from selected areas, had led to anxiety.  Many residents, he said, have already submitted the information sought under these forms with the police stations concerned.

A senior advocate from Jammu, Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad said he was approached by people from different areas including Gujjar Nagar, Bathindi, Sunjwan and Narwal, inquiring about why the police was asking them for details about their families, if the verification was meant to get particulars of the tenants.

“There is also a question being raised whether this information was sought in these few selected areas or from across the district. When we tried to cross-check, we came to know this information was being sought from these few areas only which led to fears and concerns among residents of these localities,” said Shakeel.

As per the form details, the house owners were asked to provide information including name, age, photograph, address, mobile number, date of construction of the house, a photograph of the house, vehicle details, information regarding any criminal background, identification proof, details about family members and their mobile numbers.

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“People were even asked to submit the GPS location of their houses. This is unheard of anywhere,” said Shakeel.

He said since the visit of leaders of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration to Jammu last week, tensions in the area had been high. A few days ago members of some right-wing parties held protests outside the residence of National Conference President, Farooq Abdullah, who is heading the alliance. Upon her arrival to Jammu, Peoples Democratic Party chief, Mehbooba Mufti, who is vice president of the Gupkar Alliance, was also greeted with protests.

“There is already tension. Now, if you selectively distribute such forms in these selected areas and then ask the residents to fill them up without informing as to why you need information about the families, it is bound to lead to fears,” said Shakeel. According to him, the police stopped the process to seek information about house owners and their families in “selected areas” after protests by civil society members.