A top Army officer Wednesday said the 'fresh trend' of Kashmiri youth joining militant ranks is a serious concern and "all agencies must join hands to ensure that the youth are engaged proactively and positively."
"I have always maintained (that) the way to keep the local youth away from militancy is to have them proactively engaged; to have them positively engaged," said General Officer Commanding of Army's 15 Corps, Lt Gen SubrataSaha. He was talking to reporters on the sidelines of a function held in connection with the wreath-laying of Colonel M N Rai who was killed in an encounter with militants in Tral area of south Kashmir yesterday.
He said to keep the youth away from joining militant ranks, the Army has taken a number of initiatives. "You are perhaps aware of the number of initiatives taken, especially sports activities, to keep them (the youth) positively and proactively engaged. But in real sense it is a collective responsibility and every agency has to come together to be sure that the youth do not stray into the ranks of militancy," Saha said.
He said the Army has been "proactive" with regard to safety and security and "this is why more encounters are taking place."
"Militants have not changed their base. I think the primary reason has been that the army has been pro-active to ensure that the security situation remains stable for the mandate of the people to fructify," he said, when asked why the intensity of encounters has gone up over a period of time.
Saha said most of the encounters in north Kashmir "taken place during the counter-infiltration process" while in south, "they have happened in the hinterland."
"We cannot say that the militants have vacated one base for the other, but if you see it from the point of view of the numbers, then there is less in south and more in north."
On yesterday's Tral encounter, the GOC said Col MN Rai was approached by father of one of the two slain militants that his son would like to surrender. "He asked him to go ahead and get him surrendered. At the same time, the slain militant's brother also approached and under these circumstances, both the militants rushed out of the house that they were hiding in and fired rampantly," he said, adding, "The Army has been giving opportunity wherever the parents or relations do come up to try and say they would like to ask their son or relation to surrender. So in all fairness, we try to give them this opportunity and I would not try to add any further motives to that."
Commenting on Rai's killing, Saha said that Army officers always led from the front. "It is a matter of pride for us that we have officers of such caliber and such commitment," he said, soon after laying wreath at the Army headquarters here, along with some other senior officers.