Kashmir: Amid growing unrest, nearly 19,000 Kashmiri youths apply for army recruitment

Pattan: They ran, struggling to breathe, stumbling, only to be lent a helping hand and a pat on their backs as they crossed the finish line, marking their arrival. On the second day of a recruitment rally organised by the Indian Army in Hyderbegh area of Pattan in North Kashmir, hundreds of youngsters lined up to become a part of the third largest armed force in the world.

Like hundreds of other young men, Amir Yasuf Naik had travelled a long distance to take part in the rally, held on Tuesday and early Wednesday morning. As the young men queued up to run the sloppy and curved interiors of the 10 Sector RR headquarters, Naik was tense and preferred to stand last in the line.

"There is a lot of unemployment in Kashmir because the private sector is missing. That is the reason why we want to join the Indian Army," Naik, a resident of Kulgam area of South Kashmir, told Firstpost.

Kulgam was the epicentre of the unrest in the Valley last summer, that started with the death of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Dozens of youths had joined militant groups after incessant clashes between security forces and protesters left close to hundred people dead and thousands injured.

Kashmiri youth run during an army recruitment rally. PTI

Kashmiri youth run during an army recruitment rally. PTI

"We have come here to serve our nation and to make a career," Junaid Ahmad Sheikh, another resident of Kulgam, said.

The enthusiasm among these youths to be part of the army is in complete contrast to what Kashmir is witnessing these days. Young boys of the same age have been throwing stones at the security forces to help militants escape, when they are trapped in encounters. The crowd that this recruitment rally has attracted in the first two days reflects the puzzle that is Kashmir.

But journalist Fahad Shah, who is director of The Kashmir Institute (a Srinagar based think-tank) says that Kashmir represents a kind of contrast that is evident in every society. He said that there will always be certain groups of people, or a certain section, who would like to join the mainstream avenues – be it politics, police, agencies or the army – and others, who will follow another political ideology.

"By just looking at these sections of people, you can't say that everything is normal. One cannot make abnormality normal when it comes to Kashmir. It is a different kind of situation and you have to look at it through a political lens," Shah said in Srinagar.

The Army is conducting recruitment rallies in ten districts of the Kashmir Valley from 4 to 12 April, where a total of 18,931 candidates would be appearing for 900 available posts. Those who make it through their physical fitness, medical examination and documentation would appear for an entrance exam on 28 May.

During these days, hundreds of youths turn up outside the headquarters of the Army’s local unit to appear for the tests. The deputy director general recruiting (Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir), Brig JS Samyal, who is overseeing the recruitment drive, said a huge turnout for recruitment reflects the level of motivation and patriotism amongst the youth of Kashmir.

"This time, the response has been excellent. Close to 19,000 boys have applied for recruitment in the Indian Army. Last year as well, the response was good and approximately 12,000 people had applied. This shows that the aspiration among youngsters is going up," Samyal said.

While Naik cleared the first round, there were others who failed and had to return home with a heavy heart. "I just came back after the first round as I fell down and hurt my knees. I could not pass my exam, so I am going back home," a dejected Hilal Ahmad, who resides in Srinagar, said.

While many like Ahmad accepted their fate, there were others who expressed their disappointed and anger at the lack of proper facilities at the recruitment centre.

"We were here since last night... we had to wait till 10 am in the rain. We were told to run on the hilly areas, so how could we have passed the exams? There was no food for us either," Ghulam Nabi, who came from Kulgam, said.

Updated Date: Apr 07, 2017 15:19 PM

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