Manasbal: The Army on Monday appealed to the local youth who have joined militant ranks to surrender, saying the force believes in giving a second chance and the militants will be welcomed back with open arms if they accept their mistake.
General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GoC-in-C) of the Army's Udhampur-based Northern Command, Lt General Y K Joshi made the remarks at a function at Manasbal Lake Park here in central Kashmir's Ganderbal district.
The function was organised to celebrate the 23rd anniversary of the homecoming of 23 boys who were forced to pick up arms , but were rescued by the Army in the Gurez sector and handed over to their families later in 1998. They were felicitated by the Army at the function.
The Army commander said over the last few months, it has been observed that the families of young people -- who have joined the militant ranks -- are pleading with them to leave gun culture and cycle of violence, and come back to their families.
"It is heartbreaking to see this happening. We make all-out efforts to ensure that we seek surrenders and facilitate surrenders even when we are in the midst of intense operations. We want the youth to come back to the mainstream and we will always welcome them with open arms, he said.
The GoC-in-C said the Army and the civil administration will facilitate not only their surrender but also ensure that they are well integrated back into the mainstream.
"The Indian Army is there to give a second chance to any youth who accepts his mistakes and wants to surrender and come back to the mainstream. We, the uniformed forces, are here to save lives and not to take lives. The system, the entire administration, will facilitate not only their surrender but also ensure that they are well integrated back into the mainstream," he said.
Lt Gen Joshi said the Indian Army gives a lot of importance to observing human rights when conducting counter-militancy operations.
"We ensure that we use minimum force and that there is minimum collateral damage, he added.
The Army commander said in the last 32 years of violence, the dreams of thousands of parents have been destroyed and the force is pained to see that.
"The enemies of peace showed false dreams to the innocent children and traded their future. It is regrettable that few people from our own country got involved in this conspiracy," he said.
"As far as possible, every Kashmiri youth, who has taken the wrong path, has to be brought back to the way of peace by offering him to surrender (his arms)," he said.
The GoC-in-C said be it the fight against militancy, the campaign of development, or sports or natural disaster, the way the youth of Kashmir have worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the Army, the society and their country, is appreciable.
"I can say proudly that the Indian Army by giving innumerable sacrifices, and brick by brick, has built peace in Jammu and Kashmir and the youth are working shoulder to shoulder with us to give it a new shape, he added.
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