Amid calls for ‘Azadi’ in Kashmir, 300 youth join Indian Army

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300 youth hailing from various parts of Jammu and Kashmir were today inducted as soldiers in the army after completing one-year strenous training.

A group of Kashmiris donned the Indian Army uniform on Thursday to fight for the nation at a time when many youngsters in the Kashmir valley are violently protesting against security forces and renewed their calls for “freedom” from India.

As many as 308 recruits participated in a spectacular passing out parade to join the army’s Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment even as curfew remained enforced outside. JAKLI exclusively recruits people from the state of J-K – including Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

Of the 308 soldiers, 116 were from Kashmir valley and the Muslim-dominated areas of Jammu who took part in the rigorous 11-month training at the Rangreth centre just outside the boundary of Srinagar.

The passing out parade was organised at the Bana Singh Parade Ground in Rangreth and attended by Jammu and Kashmir governor NN Vohra and the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Srinagar-based Chinar Corps, Lt General Satish Dua.

Dua said he was pleased that a new regiment of JAKLI has joined to work for the nation. “The regiment recruits jawans from J-K and brings together all the three religions – Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism – to bring laurels to their regiment and the nation,” he said.

The families of the young Kashmiri soldiers, who came to watch their children take salute, had to travel in the night to avoid the raging protests and stone-pelting youth during the day.

Kashmir has been in the grip of a violent unrest that was triggered by the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. At least 65 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces and the Valley has remained under curfew for the 41st day on Thursday.

The dearth of jobs in the valley and the security of a government job at a young age are factors that are driving the Kashmiri youth to the army. This paradox – pro-freedom sentiment and aspiring for a government job – has been indicative of the dilemmas of an average person in the valley.

However, the recruits from Jammu were more vocal about their decision to join the army.

“My aim from childhood was to join the army as my father and grandfather has worked with the army,” Tanveer Ahmad from Rajouri, who was flanked by his father, mother and over 100-year-old grandfather, said.

The highlight of the function was the sons of the soil and their families lighting candles as a mark of solidarity with the people of Kashmir and praying for return of calm and peace to the valley at the earliest, an army spokesman said.

“As a mark of respect, gratitude and recognition of contribution made by the parents of these young soldiers, they were also presented with the ‘Gaurav Padaks’ (prestige medals) instituted by the army,” the spokesman said.

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