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Defying the threat

Despite a ban on recruitments in Indian armed forces by militants, Kashmir youth are joining the forces. Social experts say large scale unemployment and limited avenues make youth defy the threats. Gowhar Nazir Shah reports.

Srinagar, Kashmir
Mar 14, 2006:

Indian army and para military forces say, about 3500 Kashmiri youth have joined Indian armed forces recenlty despite a ban by prominent militant outfit, Hizb ul Mujahideen.

In its three recruitment rallies held at Old Airfield, Langate and Anantnag areas of Kashmir Valley about 400 men were absorbed in Indian Army, says Army Commander Lt Col P Sehgal.

“For raising three companies around 50,000 people had turned up to get recruited in three rallies. The response was huge, in-fact overwhelming. 100 odd were selected at old airfield, 150 each at Langate and South Kashmir region Anantnag,” Sehgal says.

Some 2890 youths have been recruited in Central Reserve Police Force in its latest recruitment drive in Kashmir Valley, says Dalip Singh Ambresh, PRO CRPF in Srinagar. Officials say threats from militants make no impact on recruitments.

Hizb ul Mujahideen has been fighting Indian rule in Kashmir since 1989. It is led by Syed Salah-ud-Din, who also is the chairman of United Jehad Council– an amalgam of several militant organizations operating in Kashmir.

In January Hizb published advertisements in local dailies in Kashmir threatening people not to join the Indian armed forces.The advertisement called the recruitment rallies of Indian armed forces a 'conspiracy aimed at sobataging the resistance movement' in Kashmir.

It further warns people joining the forces of being themselves responsible for consequences and accused the government of creating a civil war like situation. The army says the Hizb threat had no impact on the recruitment drives.

The biggest threat to people especially youth is the bread and butter, says Prof A G Madhosh renowned Sociologist.

"Against this threat no other threat is acceptable to them. The employment market here is shrunk and there are no options." adds Madhosh.

Mudassar Khan (name changed) joined the Indian Army recently. For Mudasir being unemployed was a bigger risk than joining the force.

“A person can survive only after feeding his belly. Food is life. Given the limited choices one has at hand, there is nothing wrong if I’m joining the Army. I’m aware of the threat but what should I do?” asks Khan who was selected in Army at old airfield rally.

Madhosh terms the unemployment crisis in Kashmir as huge and adds the 16-year old conflict has snatched earning hands from many families forcing youth to take the onus of making both ends meet.

"In many rural families, the responsibility of managing family has shifted from elders to youngsters compelling them to go for jobs even if they are paid less," he says.

People don’t think too much about the threat as they believe militancy is on a decline, says M A Tantray, a broadcast journalist.

"Kashmiris feel secure in government jobs and find themselves unfit for entrepreneurship, plus the less educated don’t want to toil hard in agriculture and therefore join forces.” Tantray adds

Experts however cite the rising unemployment graph as the major reason for recruitments. An official ban on government services during the last few years has added immensely to the number of unemployed youth in Kashmir. The conflict in Kashmir has limited the avenues of enterprenuership.

The Services Selection Board in Jammu and Kashmir recieved about 300,000 applications to 5000 government jobs advertised in December 2005.

Sociologists also see the recruitments in army as an escape route for Kashmiri youth. “Kashmiris are caught between two guns. Given the limited job opportunities youth are forced to submit applications in army for appointment. They are not doing it out of will but out of desperation." Says Dr S Khurshid ul Islam, a Sociologist.

"Another factor is the improving relationship between India and Pakistan, which has brought the feeling that peace is likely to prevail, and bloodshed will stop,” Khursheed-ul-Islam adds.

Youth from rural areas line up for recruitment in Army and paramilitary forces in large numbers because they're the worst sufferers of the unemployment crisis, also less educated persons opt for these jobs becasue of stiff competition in other jobs, says Madhosh

"We see people with postgraduate degrees lining up for teacher jobs under Rehbar-e-Taleem scheme where they're paid a meagre renumeration of INR 1500 ( USD 40) a month. That speaks volumes about the empolyment crisis in Kashmir," he adds.

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