May 29, 2003, Chandigarh, India
Rights violators will be punished: GOC
Srinagar, May 28
“We have issued clear instructions to troops engaged in counter-insurgency operations that the common people should not be harassed,” he told reporters here today at the Headquarters of the 15 Corps. “No indiscipline will be tolerated by us,” he said, adding that things sometime went wrong because of some misunderstanding or local conditions.
Responding to questions that on one hand, the Army had been trying to win over the people by undertaking civic action programmes while on the other, reports of people being killed and tortured by the forces had come out, Lt-Gen Patankar declared that their policy of serving the people would continue and every case of human rights violations by the security forces would be properly investigated.
The three incidents of troops allegedly killing civilians in Kupwara and Badgam districts were under investigation, he said.
“I do not accept the reports of alleged human rights violations prepared by the locals but get every incident probed by a different agency to reach the truth. The guilty are being punished and there should be no doubt about it,” he said.
General Patankar cited the case of two soldiers who had been given severe punishment after it was proved that they had engaged in human rights violations at Pattan in Baramula district last year.
To provide “balm at the most tender of the levels”, the Army is organising an eight-day programme “Operation Maitree” involving students from different parts of the country to visit the valley from June 4. Five hundred boys and girls between 12 and 16 years from all states of the country would be joined by 250 of their Kashmiri peers, for a learning and sharing experience in Srinagar and other parts of the valley.
Disclosing this at a press conference, Lt-Gen V.G. Patankar, GoC of the Srinagar 15 Corps, said here that even though the valley was being subjected to constant strife, “the nation is with the people of the valley, sharing the triumphs and tribulations, and blurs and bright spots”. Gen Patankar said that for the Kashmiri children, it would be an opportunity to address a microcosm of India from one platform. The Operation Maitree is reciprocal to Operation Sangam launched earlier in 1997-98, which involved sending Kashmiri children to different parts of the country.
The Army is also launching a joint venture with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) at Buniyar, in north Kashmir on June 5, as several such projects, aimed at bringing about normalcy in Kashmir, are being undertaken.
Replying questions, Gen Patankar said that the selection of children from different states was being made with the help of the Army and the state governments.
The eight-day camp would culminate in a peace run on the Boulevard along the Dal lake on the morning of June 11. During their stay in the valley, the students would be put up together in rooms in a manner that there is representation of all states, including Jammu and Kashmir.
There are three types of projects, Operation Sadhbhavna and BADP (Border Area Development Project) since 1997-98, and Operation Ujala, launched last year. BADP projects run entirely on public funding. The Army, according to the GOC, supervises the execution of projects. He pointed out that Operation Sadhbhavna is solely funded and executed by the Army. Operation Ujala is an extremely purposeful effort to utilise corporate funds towards certain selected developmental projects.
The Pakistani army was still supporting militants trying to sneak into the Jammu and Kashmir and there was no visible change in their attitude on the ground even after the Indian government started its peace initiative, General Patankar said.
“We do not observe any change in the attitude of the Pakistan army as they continue to support militants trying to infiltrate into this side from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK),” he said at a press conference here.
“A number of militants are waiting across the border to sneak into this side during this summer. However, our troops are alert enough to foil all their attempts to cross over to this side,” Gen Patankar added.
Responding to questions on the presence of foreign militants in the valley, he said it is very difficult to give the exact number, but estimated their strength to be between 1500 to 2000.
Asked about the recently accomplished Operation ‘Sarp Vinash’, launched by the security forces in Pir Panjal range, General Patankar said this operation had been initiated by the 16 Corps.
Asked about the existence of mobile militant training camps in the Kashmir valley as a private news channel had recently reported, he said troops engaged in counter-insurgency operations had not come across any such camps upto now.
“Our troops are present in the entire valley, but have never seen these camps” Gen Patankar said.
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