February 2004 News

After Bandipora, Army Says No To Civilian 'burden'

11 February 2004
The Indian Express

Pahalgam: Two days after the Army returned five 'porters' it had taken away dead, Army Chief General N.C. Vij today said in Pahalgam they had decided to stop using civilian porters in anti-militancy operations. 'Though the Army eliminated six militants (in Bandipora), the killing of the porters is unfortunate... They were killed in an accident along with our three jawans. I feel sad about their killing.' Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who came to power promising a healing touch, was present along with Vij, and sought to emphasise that the Army was cooperating with his government at every level. 'Frisking has stopped along the highway, people are moving till the late hours without any fear, and it has become possible only with the support of the Army,' Mufti said. Vij said the Army, apart from combating insurgency, was also helping out the administration and that in the past several months, thousands of Kashmiri youths had been provided employment in the forces. 'We have initiated several people-friendly programmes in the Valley. Two thousand local boys have already been recruited...Seven new battalions of local boys have been raised and three of them are currently serving in the Valley, rest are deployed in other parts of the state,' he said. The Army Chief announced that there were plans to raise one more battalion of Jammu and Kashmir scouts and ten porter companies. On infiltration on the Line of Control, Vij said: 'The Army has completed fencing along the border in the Jammu sector to make it impossible for militants to infiltrate. Due to snow, all the major passes are closed and militants can't sneak in.' The CM also renewed his appeal to militants to surrender under the rehabilitation scheme. 'Militants should think seriously about our scheme as their kith and kin are waiting for them. '


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