Soldiers asked to take 'extra precautions' while on leave

The army personnel in Kashmir have been asked to take “extra precautions” and strictly follow the “existing standard operating procedure” while on leave, so that they don’t become “easy prey for the militants”.

Although the instructions are for all soldiers in Kashmir, those from the southern districts of the Valley have particularly been directed to “follow the guidelines in true letter and spirit.”

The fresh directions have come in the wake of killing of a territorial armyman who had proceeded on leave to celebrate Eid with his family at Sadoora village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.  Identified as Manzoor Ahmed, the armyman was killed by unidentified gunmen, while he was entering the cowshed in the premises of his house on June 6.

A senior defence official said that though there is a strict SoP for the soldiers intending to go on leave to celebrate festivals like Eid, Holi, Baisakhi or Christmas, fresh directions have been issued given the sensitivities involved in southern districts of Kashmir.

While reiterating the existing guidelines, the official said that every soldier, whose leave is sanctioned, must deposit his service rifle with the unit incharge before proceeding on leave.

“The soldiers must inform in advance the army units in their respective villages and districts. They should also remain in touch with the concerned police stations and apprise their respective police stations immediately about their arrival and departure,” he said.

The official said that as per the guidelines, every soldier on leave must immediately inform the police station or the army unit concerned in case of facing any threat or intimidation in any form. “Same should apply, if a soldier notices suspicious notice around his house,” the defence official, requesting anonymity said.      

Despite the tough guidelines for the soldiers, militants have been able to make the army men on leave as “soft targets.”

In June 2017, Lieutenant Umar Fayaz, who had gone home in southern district of Shopian to attend marriage ceremony of his relative, was first abducted and then killed.

Similarly, another soldier, Aurangzeb was killed by militants in June 2018 in Pulwama district of south Kashmir while as armyman Muhammad RafiqYatoo of Warpora, Sopore of JAKLI was killed in April 2019.  Aurangzeb, a resident of Poonch district of Jammu was kidnapped and later killed in Pulwama district.

 “Yes some incidents have happened in which our soldiers were targeted when they were unarmed, but those behind such killings were eliminated in various encounters since 2017,” a senior army officer said.