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Kashmiri youth rush to join Indian Army

By A K Dhar in New Delhi
June 08, 2008 16:48 IST
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Is Kashmir's most used militant ingress route and the border district perched beside the Line of Control with the most pronounced pro-separatist sentiments witnessing a change?

Kupwara, facing Pakistan occupied Kashmir's (PoK) capital Muzzaffarabad, has been the scene of most number of encounters between security forces and militants, numbering 900 to 1,000, during the last decade with fatalities running into thousands.

Its two thick forests -- Rajawar and Kalroos -- are areas known to harbour the maximum number of Pakistani mercenaries and where, according to a top army Commander, even if you launch a full division of troops, they will get lost.

But now, new winds of change seem to be blowing in the area and a pointer is the unprecedented response evoked by an army recruitment drive currently on in some areas of the district.

In the first of the series of recruitment drives launched in Kupwara and neighbouring areas in 20 years, the response has been overwhelming, an army official said.

"For single vacancy in the force, we are getting 150 aspirants," he said.

The recruitment camps were held in Chhamkote, Chowkibal and Tregham areas and according to official figures, 1,643 people responded and 183 were screened for final selection.

It may be recalled that during the height of militancy from 1990 to 2005, security forces were unable to hold or even think of any recruitment camps.

The army only ventured to hold its first recruitment drive in 2005, when 1,126 people responded with 127 qualifying after the screening.

Most of those recruited joined regular army units of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry and Jammu and Kashmir Rifles.

And some of them from this den of militancy have even won a number of gallantry awards in the recent investitures, that too for daredevil exploits against militants.

Kupwara is not the only area, army officials said, they were receiving equally strong response from other areas in the valley like Baramulla, Anantnag and Srinagar.

Since 2003, army has held regular recruitment drives at Nugam and Anantnag in south Kashmir, Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara, Chowkibal and Tangdar in north Kashmir.

"There is an unprecedented response," a top army official said.

Giving figures, he said while in 2005, over 2,300 youth had applied, the numbers rose to 2,900 in 2006-07.

"In 2008, in only one camp in Kupwara, so far, 1,100 youth had applied," the official said, adding, "Increased numbers, specially during the last two years are indicative of reduced level of violence and aspirations of the youth to join the army, whose perception has changed among the people."

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A K Dhar in New Delhi
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