It was a quiet humane operation of approaching "Maa" (mother) launched by Kashmir-based XV Army Corps that saw around 50 Kashmiri youths return to normal life this year, after abandoning the terror groups they had joined. In this operation, the Army, on the directions of General Officer Commanding (GoC) of 15 Corps Lieutenant General Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon, undertook an exercise in the hunt for missing youths and approached their families. The strategically located 15 Corps, also known as Chinar Corps, is at the forefront in fighting the insurgency in the Valley as well as countering Pakistan's actions on the Line of Control (LoC).
"Do good and serve your mother, then your mother and then your mother and then your father. This is the importance of mother in Holy Quran and that is what showed me the way in order to bring these misguided youths back to their families," Lt Gen Dhillon told PTI recently.
Showing messages of the parents, whose identity is kept secret, Lt Gen Dhillon described them as "priceless gifts" from the people of the valley and one being full of respect for the humane touch of the Army. Gen Dhillon, who has served many tenures in the valley since 1988, also mentioned that at some places, encounters were stopped right in the middle of action to facilitate surrender of youths who had picked up guns.
"Upon receiving information that a local terrorist is trapped in an encounter, we make efforts to trace his mother and allow them to speak. "You know some encounters have ended up with a magical hug between a mother and a son and that is what Army's efforts to save young kashmiri lives is all about. We don't count the dead but love adding number of young boys rejoining their families," the top Army commander said, adding, "I am glad that about 50 such youths have returned so far this year".
He further clarified that he prefers 'return' to 'surrender' in description of the action of youths abandoning terrorism. Data compiled by the Army showed that 83 per cent of the youths joining various terrorgroups have had a record of stone pelting, which means that today's stone pelter is tomorrow's likely terrorist. Giving details of the Army's success rate in tackling terrorism, Gen Dhillon said:
"Seven percent of the youth who join terrorism are killed within first 10 days of picking up of arms, 9 percent within one month, 17 per cent in three months, 36 per cent in 6 months and 64 per cent in first one year itself." "In totality, the shelf life of any youth picking up guns is one year and that is what was conveyed to parents. I am sure no father would like to shoulder coffin of his child and there started this discreet operation of restoring smiles on the faces of these family members," Gen Dhillon said.
"Under this plan, I made it a point to reiterate my appeal to mothers of the valley to bring back their children and the results are quite encouraging," he said. Operations have been also undertaken in situations where a local Kashmiri youth is accompanying foreign terrorists in the dead of the night. "Many of my men have even risked their lives in separating a willing-to-surrender Kashmiri local terrorist from a foreigner so that he can be brought back to his family," the Army commander said. The general, however, made it clear that such gestures are not generally granted to foreign terrorists but anyone willing to surrender is more than welcome.
Gen Dhillon did not want to be drawn in a discussion on the fate of the youths who have returned to their families. "There are some vultures across the border who want to target these young boys. We have successfully managed to keep their identity under wraps as I know some would be attending college, some helping their father in fields or some earning daily bread for their families. I wish them good luck," he said.