Srinagar: To bring normalcy in the Valley, the army wants to “start a positive social media outreach programme targeting the youth” and a “full protective cover of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)”, the Indian Express reported on Thursday.
Senior army officers told the newspaper that to say Kashmir is a war zone is a hyperbole as only “five districts of south Kashmir are currently in turmoil”.
The army, however, wants protesters who destroy and damage government property to be booked under appropriate laws, and not be housed in prisons in the Valley.
“If it is not possible to send these ringleaders to prisons outside the state, sources said, the government should house them in prisons in Jammu region. This will remove these people from their social ecosystem and prevent them from becoming local heroes,” the report quotes sources as saying.
The army wants to start a social media outreach to “counter Pakistan-run social media campaign”.
“It is being orchestrated very well by Pakistan. We need to go beyond counter-propaganda and start our own social media outreach programme with full intensity,” the report quotes sources as saying.
The Army had launched Operation Sadhbhavna (Goodwill) in 1998 as a part of its WHAM (winning hearts and minds) doctrine across Jammu and Kashmir.
The Supreme Court’s recent judgment on AFSPA, ruling that an FIR can be filed against army officers operating in an area under the jurisdiction of AFSPA, has also made the senior leadership unsure, the report says.
“This is the wrong time to have a discussion on AFSPA. When the situation is tense in Kashmir, the army will have to act strongly at times. If an FIR is filed, then the officer can be summoned by the police or local courts for decades after his retirement. How will he have confidence to act boldly?” the report quotes sources as saying.
Besides assuaging the people by taking up their grievances against the state government, the army is also keen to start programmes which facilitate greater interactions between Kashmiris and people from other states, the report says.