Updated: March 2, 2021 8:29:47 am
Terming the recent reiteration of the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan a “conscious call by both countries”, General Officer Commanding of the Army’s 15 Corps, Lieutenant General B S Raju, said the Army would give the ceasefire its ” best shot”.
Speaking to a group of journalists at the 15 Corps Headquarters in Srinagar, Lt General Raju said, “We will definitely give it (the ceasefire) our best shot… to make it successful. If something is happening, we will not be trigger happy. I’m sure the good officers across the border will also make it a success.”
He said that in case of incidents along the Line of Control, as part of the agreement, both sides have established mechanisms where they can speak to each other — ‘hotline messages, both here locally as well as in Delhi”.
The year 2020 recorded over 5,000 incidents of ceasefire violations across the Valley — up from 3,476 in 2019 and 2,140 in 2018.
Lt General Raju said that while the Army has been fairly successful in checking infiltration from across the LoC, “we see influx has definitely taken place from the south (International Border). Appropriate mechanisms are being put in place to stop influx of militants through tunnels or weapons through drones. Counter-measures have been put in place.”
Commenting on the implications of the ceasefire agreement, Lt General Raju said, “Our ability to control infiltration improves when there is an agreement for ceasefire in place. When Pakistan is shelling, typically it gives a window for infiltration to take place. In the absence of that, our ability to check infiltration will improve. I see no major implication other than, if the infiltration becomes successful. If they come in, then they can generate violence within the Valley.”
He added that in the last one year, without actually telling anyone, the Army has reduced some footprint in North Kashmir. “Is it time for complete reduction? Not really,” he added.
In Uri sector of the Line of Control, the last major incident of ceasefire violation occurred on November 13, 2020, when 10 civilians were killed — four in Kamalkote village, about three km short of the LoC.
Qaramat Hussain, 83, lost his son in the shelling. “He had gone to the store to get ration for the family. A shell hit him and he died on the spot. He had six young children — four girls and two boys — and they are all at God’s mercy now.”
On Sunday, while a sense of relief was evident in the village, there was also a sense of uncertainty about how long the guns would stay silent.
Nader Hussain lost both his legs to the shelling that day. His brother Muneer Hussain said he was in hospital for a month. “He was on ventilator support after the amputation and we thought we had lost him. He survived, but cannot support his family… we are all struggling to cope,” Muneer said.
The village has only one community bunker — close to a primary school to ensure the safety of the school children.
Meanwhile, the GOC said 2020 was one of the most “peaceful” years for the Valley and attributed it to the “will of the people”. “Whether it is stone pelting, agitations or shutdowns, on all fronts, the parameters have definitely shown a dip. People attribute this to Covid or excessive deployment of security forces. But we think it’s because people wanted things to be quiet. We fully endorse the sentiments of the people and we want to keep things quiet and give them an environment where they can go about their jobs.”
He acknowledged that there are isolated incidents taking place and “there are inimical elements who want to generate violence”. Speaking of the February 17 attack on the son of the owner of Krishna Dhaba, a popular eatery in Srinagar, he said that the purpose of the incident “was to showcase” to the visiting envoy delegation “that things are not normal”. “This is terrorism in the classic manner. Where these elements… kill someone only to convey a message,” he said.
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