The Cordon and Search operations (CASO) conducted by police to combat crime from the society. But nowadays, police frequently conducting CASO and common public is facing more difficulties during night time and lonely women and elderly persons too.

Is the Telangana Police, which likes to call itself people-friendly, overdoing on the Cordon and Search operations (CASO — essentially a military or counterinsurgency operation) to serve its own interests without there being any need for such operations in routine crime control in the first place? The answer, unfortunately, is in the affirmative if one considers the nature, number and types of CASO operations in the twin cities and elsewhere in the state.

‘Cordon and search’ is a military tactic to cordon off an area and search the premises for weapons or insurgents.  Used mainly in counter-insurgency operations, there are two sub-categories of CASO: ‘cordon and knock’ (with permission) and ‘cordon and kick’ (without permission).

However, for reasons best known to the Telangana Police, in a few areas of Hyderabad the police simply assume that criminals are living there and do not flinch from knocking each and every door during CASO. This has pitted the police against social activists and raised questions about the legality of some of these CASOs.

Informed sources pointed out that the process normally used to trace terrorists in Kashmir by the military has been adopted by the TS Police to catch even petty criminals. They say there is no particular act or section in law that specifically allows CASO of the TS Police variant. An RTI query yielded a ‘reply’ that the question was “Not Applicable”.

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The police, however, defend CASOs, saying they have always been helpful for them to identify a few criminals and criminals from outside who may be hiding in particular places.

Cordon and Search Operations were started by the military in Kashmir in 2002 to identify separatists and terrorists. Following huge resistance, they were suspended briefly, but resumed again in 2017. In Hyderabad and elsewhere in the state, CASOs started in 2013. They were intensified when the police were pursuing members of the so-called ‘snake gang’ in the Old City. Since then, the police have been doing CASOs regularly. The operations were suspended due to corona, but resumed in March, 2021.

When it was resumed, Commissioner of Cyberabad Police V.C.Sajjanar told the media: “As the situation comes to normal, we will continue CASO. It is very helpful for us to identify and catch criminals and suspects. Many outsiders, who have committed crimes, are coming here and taking shelter. We can find such types of elements.”

The larger question is: On what basis the police are entering houses and interrogating those people who are living there? The police are citing a petition, which had been dismissed by the High Court, in which the petitioner claimed that CASO was illegal and wanted the authorities to stop it.

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However, the Court then merely asked the petitioner to approach police officials first on the issue. It did not give any clean chit to the Police. Nor did it authorize CASO.
A police official said: “We will list out cases in our Police Stations. We suspect that a few (criminals) are hiding in particular areas. Naming those cases, we will get a warrant. With that warrant only we will go for CASO”.

The reports of the police say that no terrorist or big criminal was found in their CASOs. Yet, they claim, without any evidence, that they got “scoops or information, which helped to catch terrorists”.

At the time of public outrage over CAA, NRC and NPR, some people resisted CASO and refused to show their Aadhaar cards. Moreover, asking for Aadhaar cards is against the Supreme Court’s order. Local MIM leaders have also argued with the police on these lines. However, after a gap, the police have started CASOs again.

Social activists have alleged that the police are stamping a few areas as ‘criminal areas’. In the name of search, they are insulting poor people who cannot question them.
M.Srinivas, a social activist, said: “Can they can go and conduct CASO in Banjara Hills, where so many white-collar criminals are living  — those who are doing land-grabbing, making fake documents? Can they dare to enter gated communities for CASO? Can they assure that there are no criminals in those areas? No. Recently an imported cars scam happened.

The Directorate of Intelligence Revenue identified that many cars were purchased by the people of Hyderabad. Can the police go to each and every imported car owner’s house and ask for papers? No. The police are showing immature approach towards poor people.”

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Srinivas further said: “In CASO, they are seizing bikes without papers mostly. Once they have seized pickles prepared by a family, saying that the products are not up to the standards.”

Social activists are arguing that if a case is registered and the police get to know that the suspect is living in a particular area, then the police can watch those areas and maintain a beat to catch those criminals.

“How can you enter each and every house, insulting people living there,” they ask. They are demanding that the police must stop CASO and maintain vigil to find criminals. They have no business to knock each and every door even if they are after a criminal. #KhabarLive #hydnews