The Indian government sees hiring more women in its police force as one solution to the continual criticism of the way it has policed the conservative and troubled Kashmir region.
And for most of late last month and this month, Indian authorities in Kashmir region, whose parts have been contested by Pakistan, have been holding drilling exercises to recruit female police officers that could help with security operations.
A statement from the local police department said the physical exercises specifically targeted at women will measure their endurance and health to be a part of two battalions for Jamu and Kashimr, the two regions India controls.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police Force posted a series of photos on its social media pages, labelling the recruitment drive as part of the “physical endurance test and physical standard test” for candidates willing to join its two female-only battalions.
“A huge number of women candidates are participating in tests. Tests are being conducted after observing Covid protocols," the statement said.
Officials said as many as 500 candidates showed on average per day seeking positions of police constables with a selection panel led by women.
The training and choice of female-only recruits signal the country’s change of policy in the wake of criticisms of police harassment of women in the region in security crackdowns. In May, the Indian government deployed a female-battalion of the military to “help the male soldiers in frisking women and children at motor-vehicle checkpoints,” according to a press statement issued then.
Having more women in the security agencies could also break myths, officials said about the role of the police. Officials have not announced the number recruited from the drive so far.
The region is one of India’s Muslim majority regions and the people there are often conservative or women threatened from taking on bold roles.
Since 2019, it has also been troubled following a change of law that put it directly under the national government in New Delhi. Authorities had earlier imposed a crackdown to control what they described as a security situation.
Jammu and Kashmir
In August 2019, the Indian government revoked the status of Jammu and Kashmir as a state, which meant that it could no longer make local laws and that its administration had to be appointed by the national government.
It caused protests by some opposed to the change in law. But in the wake of the security operations, rights watchdogs had accused Indian security agencies of using excessive force, including in frisking of suspects.
Though India has often refuted claims of rights violations, the drive came in the wake of critical comments by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights which asked for respect for civil rights in crackdowns.
A previous report by the office had raised concerns about abuses by security forces, but which India refused as ignoring the real threat of terrorism.
The region which is in a valley also involved areas Pakistan contests. In the past, the two sides had shelled each other in escalation of events.