All hospitals, schools vacated in Valley: Lt Gen Sekhon
22 November 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Awantipora: The Army today said it has vacated all hospitals and schools in Kashmir valley, ahead of the November 30 deadline set by the Defence Ministry for it. All hospitals and schools used by the Army have been vacated, except a school at Mirgund in Budgam district, General Officer Commanding, Srinagar-based 15th Corps Lt Gen A S Sekhon told reporters after the surrender of six militants. The school campus in Budgam district is being used by Army as a helipad as the building was not in service. This has not affected the education of the students as a new building for the school has been constructed nearby, he said. The Defence Ministry had set November 30 as the deadline for vacating all hospitals and schools by the Army as part of the relocation of the security forces in Kashmir valley. Sekhon said situation in Jammu and Kashmir was fast improving and there was no visible impact of the political developments in Pakistan in the State. 'I don’t see any impact of imposition of emergency in Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir. The infiltration bids from across the border were normal this year and the graph of violence including grenade throwing, IED attacks and civilian killings have come down to a large extent,' he said. During the last three months, 140 militants have been eliminated by the security forces, including 95 on the Line of Control, while trying to sneak into the Valley. The Army Commander said operations against militants will continue. Sekhon said the recent encounters at Sopore, Pattan and Tangmarg in north Kashmir were normal incidents of violence and cannot be linked with the imposition of emergency in Pakistan. 'There is no direct link to these incidents with the imposition of emergency in Pakistan. These encounters were the result of the usual anti-insurgency operations, he said. Giving credit to all security agencies, including the State Police, for the success in operations against militants, Sekhon said 'our intelligence gathering has upgraded to a great extent and cooperation between inter-agencies has increased'. However, he said, the successes were achieved at a cost as Army lost one officer and several jawans in these encounters. Regarding casualties suffered by security forces in the encounters, Sekhon said security forces exercise restraint during the operations to avoid civilian casualties and loss to their properties. 'This is the main reason for our casualties,' he said. Answering another question on the level of infiltration from across the border, he said infiltration was under control this year. There were increased infiltration bids in April but through troops deployment, fencing and use of sophisticated gadgets on the LoC, Army prevented militants sneaking into this side. About alleged Human Rights Violations, Sekhon said 'whenever any incident takes place Army does not jump to hasty conclusions but ascertain the facts and hand over exemplary punishment to the personnel if found guilty'. Citing an example, Sekhon said stern action had been taken against the Army personnel who were found guilty of molesting a woman in Bandipora recently. He assured people that action would be taken against those found involved in any such act in future. 'It takes time to investigate. There should be no loose statements and hasty conclusions,' he said. To a question about arrest of some youth in Shopian district while exfiltrating to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for arms training, Sekhon requested civil society - parents, teachers and village elders - to come forward to persuade youth not to join militant ranks. However, he said exfiltration of local youth for arms training were not alarming. The level of fresh recruitment is low although some vested interests in the society are trying their best to motivate youth to join the militant ranks. 'We have arrested a number of such persons whom Army describe as over ground workers. They are being handed over to local police for legal action,' he said adding some of them have been prosecuted. Sekhon asserted that situation in Kashmir was moving towards normalcy notwithstanding isolated incidents of violence. 'Government is functioning normally so as the schools and hospitals. Markets are open till late hours which are signs of normalcy,' he said. Earlier, two commanders were among six top militants who surrendered before Lt General Sekhon here this morning. 'We are fed up with the militancy and wanted to lead a normal and honourable life,’’ militants belonging to Harkat-ul-Jehadi- Islami (HUJI) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) said after their surrender. They said they are residents of Doda district in Jammu region and were involved in several militancy-related incidents. 'The surrendered militants said they were active for the past 15 years.’’ Enough is enough now and we want to join the national mainstream and lead a peaceful life once again, the militants said. The militants would be provided a chance to make a new beginning as per the Government’s surrender policy, a senior Army Officer said. This was the first major surrender in south Kashmir after emergency was imposed in Pakistan last month. The militants who today surrendered are Mohammad Addullah Khatana alias Sher Khan of Batwal, Kishtwar deputy divisional commander of HUJI, Shabir Ahmad Reshi alias Burhan district commander of HUJI in Doda, Raqib Chuhan alias Suifullah of HUJI, Raju Chuhan alias Bilal of HUJI, Abdul Kareem alias Ansari of HUJI and Noor Hussain Kataria alias Shabnam of Hizbul Mujahideen.