Srinagar: The government is working on a surrender and rehabilitation policy for Kashmiri youth who have joined terror groups, said an Army officer, who is in-charge of the anti-terror operations in Kashmir’s hinterland.

General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps, Lt Gen. B.S. Raju underlined that the Army is working more on ensuring surrender rather than going for straight killings.

“It gives us no pleasure to kill young boys who have picked up arms a month ago or a bit earlier. We will be doing more work on ensuring more surrenders take place,” said Lt Gen. Raju in an interaction at the Chinar Corps Headquarters in Srinagar.

“Just because you have held a gun, taken a picture, doesn’t mean you have to die,” said the top officer, who also looks after the Line of Control.

Asked if the government was working on a surrender and rehabilitation policy, he said they were indeed working on such a policy.

The file, he said, has been moved up and is yet to be decided upon by the home ministry and the defence ministry.

“There are a lot of issues involved, and the defence and the home ministries are seized of the matter,” he added.

No Out-Of-Proportion Force To Be Used

Lt Gen. Raju said that his troops have been told to ensure that no out-of-proportion force is used during operations.

“Whenever a local terrorist is involved, we offer them to surrender. We have the required capability to protect them later on,” he said, giving an example of a young terrorist who had surrendered and is now pursuing studies outside the UT at the expense of the authorities concerned.

Sources in the administration said that while a surrender policy did exist for those who went over to Pakistan for training, a need has been felt to have a holistic policy for those youngsters who were lured to pick up arms for various reasons and wanted to get back to the mainstream.

Opportunity Before Us To Engage With Kashmiris

Since January this year, nearly 180 terrorists have been killed even as Kashmir saw recruitment of 131 youngsters.

In comparison, 50 youngsters have either been arrested or have surrendered during operations.

Security agencies have flagged the high number of local recruitment as a matter of serious concern.

Asked about this, Lt Gen. Raju said the Army is a cog in the wheel and the force is doing everything it can to ensure that there is no terror recruitment.

“We have intensified our youth outreach program and the effort is to ensure we both remain engaged with each other. We have even initiated programmes to enable the children and youngsters to come into our camps and remove the enigma surrounding the soldiers. Let the children see us and how we live,” he said.

The Lt Gen. also said it was important to break the barrier between the forces and the people in Kashmir.

Speaking about the revocation of Article 370 last August and the subsequent division of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories, the senior Army officer said there lies an opportunity to engage with the people of Kashmir and to usher in development.

“There is an opportunity before us and we should not miss the bus,” Lt Gen. Raju added.