SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Police chief Wednesday strongly came out in defence of his force, days after a senior police officer's family was allegedly threatened by a group of heavily armed militants who barged into his residence in south Kashmir.

"This is between police and militants, families should not be brought into this. If the police start doing this, what will happen to their families? Let militants take this as a warning," Director General of Police, Shesh Paul Vaid, told a news channel.

The terse warning comes days after a group of eight to ten heavily armed militants barged into the house of a senior police officer in Shopian district, damaged some property there and warned his family to to stop him from harassing those "sheltering militants," sources said.

The police officer was not present at his home at the time when the incident took place last week, officials said.

Although the threats to local 'collaborators' and people from the Valley working with the J&K police is not a new phenomenon, the fact that the militants managed to break into a senior cop's home has rattled the entire police force with many worrying about the safety of their families.

Last year, in a video message released on social media, Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Rashid Bhat had warned family members of policemen to prepare themselves for attacks if police doesn't stop harassment of relatives of militants while posters have surfaced on and off against police officials in their home localities, warning them to mend their ways.

”You (police) are indulging in a big mistake by harassing our families. If you touch our families, we will not spare your families. Even if your families are in Kanyakumari, we have the capacity to kill them there,” the Hizb commander had warned.

According to intelligence sources, in some instances, entire villages in south Kashmir, which was the epicentre of last year's bloodied uprising, have renounced mainstream, "This is the reason why we are witnessing massive protests during encounters in these areas," sources said.

Sources said the militants started a 'mass contact program' with residents in south Kashmir areas during last year's civilian uprising to expand their areas of operation and to cultivate sympathy and support among the locals which has bore fruit for them recently.

"In absence of any political outreach from the Centre and local mainstream leaders abandoning their turf after the uprising, we are looking at an entire population disillusioned and angry who are now willing to risk their own lives to shield the militants," sources said.

According to locals in parts of south Kashmir, the harassment of militants' families or their sympathisers has been allegedly going on since the insurgency broke out and the warning by police chief is only a message to bolster the confidence of the police force.

"The Shopian incident may have caused ripples within the force and the top cop's message seems more for domestic consumption rather than militants because we have seen how forces burnt harvested crops and mixed glass shreds with rice grains during search operations last year to terrorise locals in south Kashmir," a Political Science professor in the Valley said, wishing anonymity.