SRINAGAR Oct. 26: Another security forces jawan deployed in restive Jammu and Kashmir has ended his life by shooting himself with his service rifle.
The officials said that a constable with D-Coy of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF)’s 141 battalion, succumbed to his injuries in Srinagar’s Sri Maharaja Hari Singh late Sunday night, days after he had shot himself inside its camp at nearby Shergari.
Nath is the sixth security personnel who have committed suicide in J&K during past three weeks. A constable P.G. Naidu who was a resident of Andhra Pradesh ended his life in similar way in City’s Mehjoor Nagar area earlier. Before him, Jagjit Singh, an Army soldier, committed suicide at a military camp in the central Ganderbal district and 22-year-old soldier, Rakshit Kumar, shot himself with a service rifle in the border district of Baramulla. Another Army jawan N.K.Mullia Raj of 25 Madras deployed in Naugam sector of the Line of Control (LOC) committed suicide on October 11 and Amit Kumar, a constable at the 37th battalion of Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) ended his life by shooting himself with his service weapons in neighbouring Handwara area a day later.
The officials said that in house investigations in each case are underway and results as to why these security personnel took extreme steps would be known soon.
But these incidents already serve a grim reminder of the incidence of suicides and fratricide being on the rise among security forces on counterinsurgency or law and order assignments in J&K.
As per official statistics, hundreds of incidents of fratricide and suicide have taken places within the security forces in J&K in past over three decades. Stress is mainly believed to be the root cause of the incidence although the Army as well as paramilitary forces have initiated ‘concrete steps’ in the light of "in-depth" analysis of past incidents and identification of windows of prevention which, the concerned officials claim, have helped in addressing the issue greatly.
Psychologists say security forces personnel often commit suicides or target their colleagues under duress as they perform long-term duties in unfamiliar environments and unfavorable conditions and that the level of frustration in them increases when they are denied leave to go home.
Kashmir’s leading psychiatrist Dr. Abdul Waheed Khan told this newspaper, “Violence and bloodshed have been going on in Kashmir for many years. As a result, the security forces are more prone to trauma than the general population. When they wear bulletproof jackets before taking part in an operation or are sent out of the barracks to perform duty somewhere, they immediately feel strongly that they are about to go through a traumatic situation”. He added, “When this situation takes the pressure on a soldier's mind to an unbearable level, he vents his anger either on himself or on one of his comrades. It is easy for him to do so because he is already armed”.
However, officials say a number of measures have been taken in recent years to reduce the stress on soldiers and provide them with recreational opportunities, which has significantly reduced their tendency to think negatively. CRPF Director General for North India Zulfiqar Hassan said, “We have launched a number of programmes to reduce stress in our boys and provide them with better opportunities for rest and recreation. They are now allowed to go home on vacation. We strongly hope that the situation with regard to suicide among our boys will get better in the future”.
He also claimed that the rate of fratricide and suicide among the security forces particularly the CRPF deployed in J&K was the lowest among various states in India.
Explaining recent decisions to relax strict rules for security personnel to go home on holiday, CRPF spokesman Junaid Khan said. “There is no problem for our men in their going home on holiday. In the event of a death in the family or any other emergency, a jawan or officer also gets leave which is not due. And as far as obligatory holidays are concerned, they are given on time. There has been any problem in such cases ever”.
The officials said that while Army has set up help lines and is conducting yoga classes to enable the soldiers deal with stress, the CRPF, Border Security Force (BSF) and other paramilitary forces hold regular shows to entertain their men as well. Officials also said that in addition, financial assistance to the families of those killed and wounded in encounters with militants or their attacks has been multiplied.
However, a recent survey had said that the main reasons of members of the security forces' resorting to extreme steps continue to be denial of leave and their being forced to perform duties for long periods in tough conditions including counter-insurgency operations. Several security personnel, speaking on condition of anonymity to this newspaper said that they were still being forced to perform long-term duties in counter-insurgency operations “in harsh and unfavorable conditions”. There were, however, unanimous in unanimity among them in seeking to put their plea across to the concerned authorities here and in New Delhi that there is an urgent need to improve their working conditions “so that we can serve the country in a better way”.