Baramulla: Army officer ‘forcing’ youth to become informers

Srinagar: An army Major posted in Watergam area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district is allegedly harassing youth and asking them to act as informers.
Major Ravi of army’s 29 Rashtriya Rifles, who often travels in private vehicles along with his soldiers, intercepts young local boys and subjects them to harassment, local residents told Kashmir Reader Wednesday.
“The Major not only grills the youth with a series of questions but also searches their belongings and cell phones. Before leaving the youth, the officer hands them over a computerised slip mentioning his name and mobile number in bold letters,” the residents said.
“I was stunned when the army officer stopped me on Wednesday morning and asked bizarre questions. He scanned my cell phone even as the soldiers joining him noted down my personal details. He also handed me over a slip. He said if I ever came across any militant, I should share this information with him over phone,” Bilal Ahmad, a local youth, told Kashmir Reader.
Besides him, Ahmad said, over six more youth, including a few motorcyclists were held by the officer in the village that is situated 4 km from the army’s Watergam camp. He said the ‘practice of coercion’ has been going on for nearly a month.
“The officer is harassing the youth. He wants every boy in the village to become army informer. Otherwise, why should he distribute the slips carrying his name and number,” Ahmed said.
Another youth, who insisted not to be named, fearing reprisal from the army, said such occurrences were a routine in the north Kashmir district. He said many a times, army officers forcibly take away vehicles of the civilians and many a times the soldiers get into public transport.
“In the case of Major Ravi, I have never seen him travelling in an army vehicle. He mostly travels in private cabs. Every second day, he is spotted in a different cab,” he added.
Early this year, the residents of Balhama village of Shalkoot, Rafiabad charged army’s 32 RR of harassing them by seeking besides other things their personal details like the number of family members, gender, age and profession at their Shalkoot camp, located at a distance of one kilometre from the village. The army officer leading the soldiers had also asked the locals to make fresh identity cards duly attested by the village head and the Panchayat members.
The diktat drew sharp criticism from various political quarters, even as army had downplayed the incident.
Meanwhile, army’s Srinagar based spokesman was quoted by a local news gathering agency as saying that he will look into the matter.