(MENAFN- IANS) By Sheikh Qayoom
Srinagar, Dec 2 (IANS) In Jammu and Kashmir having an armed security guard has become more of a status symbol than an actual necessity to protect someone.
Top officials responsible for identifying threats to individuals and also those detailed to provide the armed security guards are coming under increased pressure as the demands for providing security guards often go beyond the threat perceptions analysed by the authorities.
'There is a list of categorised persons whose threat appraisals are reviewed from time to time. Providing security based on threat perception is an essential aspect of the security system.
'But, we often get demands from persons not otherwise categorised for providing armed security guards,' said a senior officer connected with providing security to protected persons.
Over the years, moving around with an armed security guard provided by the government has become a status symbol in J&K.
From hotel owners to spice manufacturers, everybody is in hot pursuit to get armed security from the government.
Not many of the protected persons are provided with bullet proof vehicles and in any case, moving around with armed guards in non-bullet proof vehicles and carrying armed guards along while shopping inside malls or attending social functions is fraught with inherent risks.
'Such behaviour by protected persons not only endangers their personal safety but also exposes our boys to avoidable risks.
'Moving around in vehicles not meant for security purposes entails inherent risk to the occupants. You are a moving target for anyone to take a potshot,' said another officer connected with security.
It is very strange that in order to show off their so-called protected status, the newfound crop of protected persons do all sorts of pranks to attract public attention.
They keep the guards outside shops, at entrances of other public places or at the receptions of social functions and move around with swagger that does not show even an iota of concern for personal safety or that of the guards they carry along.
There are detailed SoPs about what a protected person should do or not do. In the name of belonging to this or that political party or just because of their social standing backed by wealth, most people moving around with security in J&K might not need any armed protection at all.
Another important aspect of this rat race to obtain armed security from the government is that the protected persons in most of the cases move around without informing the security agencies or even the local police station ahead of their visits.
In some cases, the armed guards are left at home and the so-called protected persons slip on the sly to places they would not want to be seen visiting.
In social gatherings the hallmark of a person's status has ironically become the number of armed security guards who wait in chilling cold or biting sunshine till the protected person finishes his sumptuous meal and daily quota of gossip with friends and relatives.
Even people remotely connected with mainstream politics have been provided armed security guards and depending on one's influence in high places, senior officers of security set-up are pestered to provide guards to persons for whom they have no other utility than an 'armed display of secured status'.
In J&K, even the separatists, who stood publicly for secession enjoyed this 'special status' and some of them still have government provided armed security guards even when the UT is directly ruled by the Centre.