Pulwama: A security personnel during cordon and search operation after two militants were killed in a gunfight with the security forces, at Panzgam in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district, on May 18, 2019. One of the slain militants has been identifi. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Nov 11 : The Indian Army has weaned away nearly 60 local youth of Jammu and Kashmir, who had been recruited by Pakistan-backed terror outfits, through a targeted programme undertaken over the past eight months, sources said here on Monday.

The programme -- 'Operation Maa' -- was launched by Chinar Corps (15 Corps) of the Indian Army in Jammu and Kashmir in February this year, soon after Lieutenant General K.J.S. Dhillon was appointed its commander.

"The basic objective behind the programme is to ensure that youth indoctrinated into militancy by Pakistan-backed terror groups are brought back into the fold of mainstream society. The programme has been designed to help rehabilitate only the local youth of the Valley who have chosen the path of militancy," a senior Army officer told IANS.

As per Army sources, as many as 50 youth have already been rehabilitated after being weaned away from militant groups. The process to rehabilitate 10 more youth is further underway.

Explaining the modus operandi of the programme, the Army officer told IANS that local youth recruited by terror groups were contacted through their 'mothers'.

"Mothers are the central figure of any family. We appeal to the local youth recruited into terror groups through their mothers. They are convinced to consult the civil society, the police or the Army to help them return to the mainstream.

"Though the Army had been appealing to misguided youth in the Valley in the past too, the operation launched this year is specifically targeted through their 'mothers'. Also, the new programme is further focused at convincing the youth that there will be no consequences pursuant to their abandoning of terror groups," the officer added.

As per officials, the youth who respond to the appeals through proper channels of communication are further convinced that their identities will not be revealed. They are also convinced that details about their rehabilitation will not be publicised and that their identities will also be kept a secret from their close relatives.

"This is a unique approach that has been developed to bring militants back into the mainstream though it is specifically not the job of the Army to convince misguided youth or help them rehabilitate. It should be remembered, however, that there is no soft approach for Pakistani infiltrators in the Valley," said another official.

The Army is also working towards bringing back the 'fringe elements' in the Valley into the mainstream. The 'fringe elements' have been identified as youth in the age group of 21 to 24 years who do not join terror groups per se but are involved in anti-social activities such as stone pelting or issuing threats upon civilians.

In the past, there have been instances where 'fringe elements' have indulged in killings too, particularly after the abrogation of Article 370, without them necessarily joining terror outfits.

"Recruitment drives are being conducted by the Army regularly targeting youth in the age group of 21 to 24 years," added the official.

(Ayaskant Das can be contacted at ayaskant.d@ians.in)

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