In J&K, the army is preventing the radicalisation of youth

In J&K, the army is preventing the radicalisation of youth

In J&K, the army is preventing the radicalisation of youth

J&K Army organised a welding workshop for training the youth (Photo Credits: Umar Shehzaad)

By Arjun Sharma and Umar Shehzaad

From skill development initiatives to invitations to Republic Day celebrations, the army has several measures in place to win back trust and help the locals

Jammu/Doda: On a sunny February afternoon, 22-year-old Junaid Bhat was busy cutting wooden logs to make an Almirah at a small shop in Jammu Division's Kishtwar district. In this mountainous region—one that has witnessed some of the worst incidents of terrorismBhat wasn't just another ordinary carpenter going about his day. 

As the nephew of the longest surviving commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen terror outfit in the region — Mohammad Amin alias Jehangir Saroori; the young man was fully aware that the police and the Army may be keeping a vigil on him.

The Army provided Bhat with vocational training as a carpenter about seven months ago to prevent him from going astray like his uncle. "The Army trained me as a carpenter for 90 days, after which I was issued a government certificate. Neither any Hurriyat (separatist) leader nor any government officials supported us," said Bhat, who believes that he has understood the value of hard-earned money and peace.

Bhat was one of many to receive such support from the Army in the state. Many young people in the area had taken up arms in the 1990s and early 2000s due to sustained propaganda by Pakistan. Since then, villages in Kishtwar have generally relied on the Army's help as the government machinery cannot reach and help these villagers due to its mountainous topography. Information from locals can be a game-changer for security forces; hence they are always willing to help the villagers. 

Part of this strategy is providing employment opportunities through skill training to local youth. The Army has been scaling this up aggressively over the past few years in the wake of new threats to lure youngsters. 

This is one of the supposed reasons that terrorism in Kishtwar and adjoining Doda district has decreased significantly, especially since the abrogation of section 370.

"The path of terrorism will lead only to death by bullet," Bhat told 101Reporters, adding that officials have never harassed him for his connection to the uncle. He even made appeals to Mohammad Amin to surrender himself to the Army. "The army had also helped my uncle's (Saroori) son to get immediate medical help when he injured his leg," added Bhat.

The Army also assisted women with their health concerns. Pregnant women face hardships as the Macchal sector in Kupwara — a hotbed for terrorism that gets cut off from the rest of the valley during the snow. Along with other remote regions, the Army also held regular medical camps as government doctors are not available in these places. 

J&K Army helps Pregnant women in remote areas (Image sourced by Arjun Sharma)

'No stone left unturned'

After having suffered for many years, the women in the terror-infested regions of J&K are now trying to learn new vocations and earning alongside their husbands.

The Army trained nine women hailing from remote areas of Thakrie block in Kishtwar in tailoring, after which they formed a self-help group. This course was carried out under the supervision of the District Social Welfare Department, and certificates were awarded from Menrol Skills Pvt. Ltd on successful completion.

Even in the Rajouri district along the LoC, which had witnessed many incidents of terrorism, the Army has left no stone unturned to help the youth. Regular workshops to train them are held. At the culmination of the Workshop, the participants are awarded certificates from the National Skill Development Council (NSDC).

22-year-old Junaid Bhat was busy cutting wooden logs at a small shop in Jammu Division's Kishtwar district (Image sourced by Arjun Sharma)

Murtaza Malik, 23, a resident of Darhal in Rajouri, said that the Army recently provided him training in welding, after which he has been able to start his workshop. "The only concern is that in small places like Darhal, there may be few people in need of welding. The initiative by the Army is appreciable, but the youth of far-flung regions must also be provided opportunities by the J&K government in starting their own business. But, unfortunately, most such schemes are only on papers," lamented Malik.

Unfulfilled Expectations From The Government

Like Malik, most villagers believe that the government should also do its job of creating employment opportunities for the youth. However, Irfan (name changed on request), 36, from the Doda district, said there is stigma in his family members since his brother was an Over Ground Worker (OGW) for LeT. However, he had surrendered in 2020. 

"No private establishment is ready to provide a job to my brother as there is a label of former OGW on him. The government should come forward and provide jobs to the surrendered OGWs so that they can assimilate into the mainstream," Irfan told 101Reporters. People within the region are unaware of government schemes, and government officials generally don't reach such remote areas.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official of the Kishtwar district administration told 101Reporters that "the government staff is not well trained. They also do not have the necessary resources to reach far-flung areas when everything is covered under snow during extreme winters. So most of the time, the district administration requests the Army for the help of locals in these far-off villages. We understand that there are loopholes in the system but then what matters is that someone comes to the rescue of villagers." 

'Trust Is A Two-Way Street'

Being a Muslim dominated region, Kishtwar and Doda districts have witnessed several alleged fake encounters, custodial deaths etc. Arrests in the Kashmir valley have also created a sense of fear even in the Jammu division. However, these initiatives by the Army have been able to build trust again to a certain extent.

On January 26, 2022, Irfan was invited to the Republic Day event at Doda by the 10 Rashtriya Rifles (10 RR), where Lal Din Gujjar, father of Nazir Gujjar alias Abu Manzil, a hardcore terrorist operating from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), unfurled the flag of India.  

"Who would have thought that the father of a wanted militant would unfurl the tricolour on Republic Day?" questioned Gujjar. He said that if people at large start trusting the Muslim population of J&K, terrorism will be wiped out soon.

"Many sons of the region have already lost their lives after picking up guns. It was time that elders started trusting the Army to send a message to the younger generation to end the bloodshed. However, trust is a two-way phenomenon and can be achieved only if both sides agree on some points," Gujjar told 101Reporters.

Company Commander of Indian Army's 10 RR, Major Mohammad Navaid in Doda, said that efforts are afoot so that no youth goes towards militancy and takes up arms. "Inviting families of militants on Republic Day function will make the kin a part of mainstream so that there is no stigma on them and they can assure their family members to return and surrender for the better," he added.


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