Soldiers from Kashmir, who are increasingly being targeted by militants, putting not just them but their families at risk, have said that such violence would not deter them from joining the Indian Army.
Militants in Kashmir have of late targeted locals who enlisted or were commissioned in the armed forces even as the Army has come down heavily on the terrorists, maintaining that it has killed about 200 terrorists, including senior commanders of some groups, in 2017 alone. The brutal murders of Lt Umar Fayaz on May 9 and Territorial Army sepoy Irfan Ahmad Dar on November 25, Army officials said, were intended to discourage Kashmiri youths from joining the services. However, serving men from the troubled region told TOI on Tuesday that such targeted violence would never discourage them.
Over the past one year, over 20 officers from Jammu and Kashmir have passed out of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun. In a recruitment rally held in Pattan in South Kashmir in April this year, nearly 20,000 youths from the area were said to have turned up to join the Army, of which 800 were selected. Serving men, while re-affirming their commitment to serving the country, admitted they had to take precautions on their visits home.
An Army jawan from Anantnag said, “These attacks cannot stop people from joining the armed forces and serving the country. They are also a means to earn a living. However, we are cautious when we go home on leave. Attacks on off-duty soldiers do make us hesitate when we interact with civilians. The rule is not to trust anyone.”
Another soldier posted in south Kashmir said, “Apart from immediate family members, everyone else who knows me back home thinks that I am posted in north Kashmir. These attacks do bring about a change in our lifestyle. We are definitely more distrustful. Things are worse in areas like Anantnag, Pulwama, Sopore and Shopian because terrorists get a lot of local support there.”
“I go out of my way to ensure that I do not become part of any kind of disagreement when I am out with my family. Because I am in the armed forces, I am a very viable target for local militants, who might actually be trying to earn brownie points with their group leaders by killing a government employee. Most of us are worried when we go back home,” the soldier added.
“The worst part is that since here the local militants are more active, they know the households which have members in the defence forces. Terrorists at times try to find safe haven in these residences and, when denied, they start killing family members. All government employees are under threat from militants because they think we are going against their concept of ‘azadi’. But we are just serving our country,” said Mushtaq, a retired Army havildar from Anantnag.
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