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Kashmiris joining militancy ‘matter of concern’: Army

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Udhampur, May 20: Lieutenant General Ranbir Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command of the Indian Army on Monday said that locals in Kashmir joining militancy “remains a matter of concern.”

He said one of the key reasons for locals picking up gun was the “radicalization and exploitation of social media by Pakistani agencies.”

The army commander said that Pakistan was feeling “starved” due to a very effective counter-infiltration grid of the Indian Army.

Failing to engineer infiltration of militants from across the LoC, Pakistani agencies have resorted to social media to “radicalize” Kashmiri youths, the Army commander said.

Though local recruitment still remains a matter of concern, but youths are realising that “we do not want to become fodder for Pakistani agencies”, he said.

“Successful infiltration from across the Line of Control (LoC) is virtually becoming very difficult,” Singh said while replying to a question on recruitment by militant outfits in Kashmir.

“Therefore, for them (Pakistan) to continue with this militancy, they want that the local content should be increased,” he said.

“Local recruitment remains a matter of concern for all of us. Last year, 217 local youths had taken to militancy. This year, number has significantly reduced. As on date, there are only 40 youth who have picked up arms,” the Army commander said.

He said a large number of “misguided youths returned to mainstream society” because of its (Army’s) outreach programmes to connect with families and teachers.

Since 2016, there has been a constant rise in the number of youths joining militancy, as per official data. In 2015, 66 youths joined militancy in Kashmir and 53 in 2014.

In 2017, 126 locals had joined militant ranks, Army said.

South Kashmir districts — Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag — have become a breeding ground for militants with many youths joining their rank and file, it said, adding that outfits like the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashker-e-Taiba find more recruits.

The data said out of the 217 recruits in 2018, 154 hailed from south Kashmir. The highest, 69, was from Pulwama. In 2016, 88 Kashmiri youths had joined militancy, according to the data.

The Army commander said one of the key reasons for this is “radicalisation” of youths through “exploitation of social media by Pakistani agencies.”

“One of the key reasons of recruitment is radicalisation and exploitation through social media by Pakistani agencies (to lure youth to pick up guns and engineer violence in Kashmir),” Singh said.

“However, the realisation is coming to the youth and people of Kashmir that we do not want to become fodder for Pakistani agencies and various inimical elements, who want to promote terrorism and violence in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

“I am sure with the help of all the stakeholders we will be able to arrest this trend in the times to come as we are doing now,” he added.

This year has seen a marked change, wherein security forces reached out to parents, elders teachers in various villages to explain to them that youth picking up guns is futile.

In 2010, 54 youths had joined militancy, while in 2011 the number came down to 23. It further dipped to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013, as per the official data.

The data is based on technical and human intelligence, besides interrogation reports of militants arrested during various counter-insurgency operations in the Valley.

He also said the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir in under control.

“Pakistan has been continuing with its activities which are mainly anti-India, whether it is violating ceasefire, promoting cross-border infiltration, drug trafficking, narcotics, circulation of fake Indian currency,” he said.

He said the neighbouring country wants to continue with its “proxy war” against India.

“But I must assure you that our efforts to thwart each of these actions is in place and Pakistan will not able to succeed in its designs,” Lt Gen Singh said.

He said the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) was peaceful and “we have been able to ensure peace and tranquility with China”.

Lt Gen Singh said the established mechanisms for confidence building have ensured that there are no “fraction points” between the two sides.

“If at all there are any kind of transgressions and incursions, which do take place, the established mechanisms take care of that,” he added.

He also said the security forces helped the administration in Jammu and Kashmir to conduct the Lok Sabha polls in a peaceful manner.

“We recently finished with the elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The credit is due to the security forces and the administration,” Lt Gen Singh said.

He said while security forces killed a number of militants in the past about four months in the state, some militants shunned the path of violence and returned to the mainstream.

“During this year, we have been to neutralise 86 terrorists so far. Twenty terrorists were also apprehended. Our operations against terrorists will continue. A number of ultras have been brought back to the mainstream with the help of the parents, teachers and senior citizens,” Lt Gen Sinbh said.

He said the Army was able to check and arrest militant activities in south of Pir Panjal in the Jammu region.

At present, there are no confirmed reports about the presence of militants in the region, Lt Gen Singh said.

“Our resolve, our commitment to operations (against militants) continues to be same in south of Pir Panjal. We will not allow the area to slip into terrorism,” he added. (With PTI inputs)

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