Updated: April 23, 2017 8:51:33 am
WHILE asserting that the situation in Kashmir is “on expected lines”, the Army’s top commander in Kashmir has said that the forces have to win “the battle of minds” as much as “the battle through bullets”.
In an interview to The Sunday Express, Lt General J S Sandhu, Commander of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, called the security situation “fragile”. “Public support to terrorists, their glorification and increased radicalisation are issues of concern,” said the officer in-charge of the Army in Kashmir, adding that “the battle of minds is as important as the battle through bullets, and we are trying to steer them (youths) away from the violent path”.
Saying the Army is monitoring the situation and keeping an eye on the “trends”, Lt Gen Sandhu added, “The security situation is fragile. Violent protests and stone-throwing incidents will occur, but possibly may not be as widespread or as intense… The developments have been on expected lines.”
Admitting the increased recruitment of locals into militancy since July 2016, when Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed, Lt Gen Sandhu said, “We need to dissuade youth from joining the tanzeems (militant organisations), we can try to wean them (away) to a brighter future. Skill-development, creation of job opportunities, interaction with parents and elders, are several steps that need to be taken.”
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Sources said more than 100 locals had joined militancy last year and 13 so far in 2017. Terrorist incidents have been on the rise, with 17 initiated by militants seen till mid-April this year in the Valley, compared to six during this period in 2016. Thirty-eight militants have died in Army action in J&K so far this year, eight of them on the Line of Control (LoC).
Lt Gen Sandhu also spoke about the spree of recent videos fanning passions in the Valley on both sides, saying, “Fake videos, old videos, repetitive screening of such videos, give rise to an impression of large-scale turbulence. Incidents lasting a few minutes, shown repeatedly, give an incorrect perception.”
However, he believes that while social media allows the videos a wide reach, it also enables the Army to counter them. He said the Army is “geared up to meet the challenge”.
The Army is fighting controversy triggered by one such video that shows a Kashmiri civilian tied to the bonnet of an Army jeep in Budgam, to keep stone-pelters away on the day of the Srinagar bypolls. In other videos, civilians have been shown heckling the security forces.
Lt Gen Sandhu said he had “asked soldiers to deal with situations in a professional manner and adhere to the Rules of Engagement. I also realise that the man on the spot needs to be permitted some elbow room to deal with volatile situations ingenuously”.
To bring down incidents of militancy in Kashmir, Lt General Sandhu, who is in his sixth tenure in J&K, said the Army will focus on counter-infiltration along the Line of Control and counter-terrorism operations in the Valley. “Infiltration attempts have commenced (on the LoC), and tanzeems are planning to push in greater numbers this year,” he said.
As per data available with the Multi Agency Centre of the state, 49 terrorists have attempted infiltration from across the LoC this year, and 15 have successfully infiltrated so far. The Army has foiled four bids of infiltration.
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