AWANTIPORA: The Indian Army has changed its standard operating procedure (SOP) for anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir to now focus on ensuring surrenders during live encounters notwithstanding the threat to the lives of its personnel — a policy that has helped save the lives of 17 youths in the last six months.
On the occasion of Army Day on Friday, four Rashtriya Rifles (RR) units working under the Victor Force, which combats terrorist activities in south Kashmir and parts of central Kashmir, were awarded the coveted Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Unit Citation.
The units — 50 RR, 44 RR, 42 RR and 34 RR — have been involved in multiple counter-terrorism operations and have ensured seven surrenders since September last year when it was decided to make efforts to bring the misguided youths back to the mainstream.
The citations to the four units drawn from Kumaon, Rajput, Assam and Jat regiments of the Army were presented by Chief of Army Staff Gen M M Naravane in the national capital.
Videos of some of the surrenders, accessed by PTI, show that in spite of grave risks, the Army brought parents of the terrorists to the encounter site and convinced them to drop arms.
In one of the videos, a terrorist, Zahid, has an emotional reunion with his father, who is seen weeping and telling his son that it is a rebirth.
General Officer Commanding of the Victor Force Major General Rashim Bali, who has been supervising surrenders during live encounters, feels that this has generated tremendous goodwill among the local population.
This has given a reassurance to the local terrorists that the avenue of their return to the national mainstream is open.
“For those who want to join the national mainstream, we are committed to accept surrenders, even by putting our lives at great peril,” he said.
At the same time, Major General Bali made it clear that relentless operations will continue against those who pick up guns and resort to violence.
In some of the videos, surrendered terrorists could be seen praising the Army for providing them an opportunity to shun the path of violence.
The new strategy of the Army came into effect last year when Shoiab Ahmed Bhat of the Al Badr terror group expressed his desire to lay down arms during an ongoing encounter.
He was part of the group which had killed a jawan of the Territorial Army in south Kashmir’s Shopian district, but this did not deter the Army personnel in ensuring his surrender and handing him over to police after questioning.