Kashmir most peaceful in 2020, not because of COVID-19 but people: Army

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Srinagar: A top army officer said that the past year has been one of the most peaceful in Kashmir with all parameters of violence on a decline as people want it to be so. He rejected suggestions that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the “quiet” situation.

General Officer Commanding (GoC) of the Srinagar-based XV Corps, Lt Gen B S Raju on Monday said the ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan is a conscious call by both the countries and the task at hand is to make it successful.

“The year 2020 has been one of the most peaceful times. The situation in the valley remains fairly normal. All the parameters of violence — be it stone-pelting, agitations or bandhs — have shown a dip,” Lt Gen Raju told reporters.

Raju, who will take charge as the new Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), said while many people would want to believe that the situation in the valley was “quiet” due to the COVID pandemic, “it is not (the case)”.

“It is quiet because people want it to be quiet. If something good is happening, it is because the people want it to be,” he said, adding, “We have lots of hopes from the year 2021”.

Acknowledging that there have been isolated incidents, the GoC said there were elements who want to generate violence.

“They get directions from within and across (the LoC) to attack. There was this Krishna Dhaba attack recently. It was only done to convey a message to the arriving EU delegation that the situation is not peaceful and that things are not normal. It was terrorism in a classic manner,” he said.

The Army officer was referring to the February 17 attack on Akash Mehra – son of the owner of ‘Krishna Dhaba’ which is a popular eatery in the high-security Durganag area. The attack took place on the day a 24-member delegation of envoys had arrived on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir. Mehra succumbed to injuries at a hospital here on Sunday. Lt Gen Raju welcomed the reiteration of the ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, terming it a positive step and a conscious call by the two nations. “The ceasefire agreement is a positive step and a conscious call by both the countries. The task at hand is to make it successful,” he said.

He, however, said that infiltration by militants from across the LoC was still a challenge.

“Infiltration is still a challenge, but we are up to it. We will try to keep things under control and keep the population safe. We hope the situation along the borders remains calm,” he said.

The GoC of the strategically located XV Corps added that the ceasefire helps to check infiltration.”Our ability to check and control infiltration improves when there is a ceasefire,” he said.

Asked as to how the Indian Army would respond to any ceasefire violation from the Pakistani side, the Lt Gen said the Army was not trigger happy and would raise the issue through a proper mechanism.”We have an established mechanism both at the local level as well as in Delhi.”

Definitely, we will give it the best shot. We will not be trigger happy. In case there is some problem, in case there is an incident, we will tell the other side, we will speak to them,” he said.

He said the ceasefire would have no major implication in the hinterland other than by helping check the infiltration.

On Pakistan using new routes for infiltration of militants and arms, Lt Gen Raju said if the desire from the other side is there, it will keep pushing and finding new ways.

“But, if they have done this (ceasefire agreement), then we will slowly disincentivise them from doing other things as well,” he added.
To a question about the reports of Taliban-style ‘sticky bombs’, the Army officer said “inducting anything new available is an ongoing process in the valley and we will adopt a proper strategy to do our job”.

The XV Corps Commander said the Army reduced its footprints in north Kashmir last year and it is an ongoing process.”When the violence goes down, the methodology changes,” he said.

Asked about the emergence of new militant outfits, the GoC said “a militant is a militant” and the name of the outfit does not matter.

“We are doing a lot of good work to stop recruitment even as there is continuous social media-based propaganda from the other side,” he said. (Agencies)

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