The people in Jammu and Kashmir seek a decent and a quality life like anyone else in the world and do not want violence, says the Indian Army’s commander in Kashmir Lt General B.S. Raju. “What people here want is just quality and decent life like anyone else in the world wants. This is the common man’s aspiration in the Valley,” Lt Gen Raju, who commands the Srinagar-headquartered 15 Corps, told IANS.
However, there is a small component of Over Ground Workers which is aligned to the cause which is inimical to the armed forces, he said. “One or two percent of such people drive the agenda. The silent masses suffer because of this small component,” he contended.
Lt Gen Raju said that after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year, a lockdown was imposed to ensure that there was no civilian casualty. Then, there was lockdown by local All Parties Hurriyat Conference and other separatist organizations. “Some amount of defiance was there,” he said but noted that by December, things opened up and winter tourism was in full swing.
“Gulmarg alone was getting 500 to 700 tourists, including foreigners. By February, children were going to school and colleges. It was encouraging to see the level of activity there. However, COVID-19 lockdown started. “The trajectory gives hope that we are on the right track and things will normalize,” he said. The Srinagar Corps Commander also said that the Indian Army is taking up various outreach programs in the valley so that barrier between the army and local people is broken.
“We want to break the barrier between the army and ‘awam’ (common people). We want to make them feel at ease in our presence,” Lt Gen Raju said.
Stressing that he has directed his men that breaking the barrier is very important, he said: “We to get them into our garrison where we share a cup of tea and have informal chat. We also help them in solving their problems. We ensure they go out happier.” He said that it is happening at a large scale, also pointing out that a lot of children in the Valley “don’t know what is behind the wall, how do Indian Army lives and what they do”.”We are making such an outreach program extensively and we need to scale it up,” he added.