Budgam: Children are not known to refuse sweets. In a Budgam village, however, they did so when soldiers from a nearby camp offered them barfi and ladoos on the Republic Day on Monday.
Like every year, soldiers from 53 Rashtriya Rifles camp at Chamboora village in Budgam came to Yakhbog village in Khansahab area, 8km from district headquarters, to offer sweets to the village children.
“They tried hard to persuade the children but no child took the sweets…many children are afraid of them and they ran away,” said Arif Ahmed, a local youth.
Soon after the soldiers departed, dejected, the children returned to streets to play.
Umar Jan, 22, recalled how a decade back he would take the sweets as a child “out of fear”.
“I would throw away their sweets once they would leave,” said Jan, who lives in Haaworah, Khansahab.
For the past three years, especially after the 2010 agitation when over 120 civilians, mostly teenagers, were killed by the armed forces during protests, most children refuse to accept the sweets.
“They (soldiers) have stopped to go to every village with boxes of sweets. Perhaps they realised the futility of it,” said Ghulam Mohammad, a resident of Shamsabad, Khansahab.
To endear itself to Kashmiris, a majority of whom see it as an “army of occupation”, the army regularly organizes medical camps and takes school children on tour of important places in India. It has also opened ‘Goodwill Schools’ in several districts and built mini hydel projects, all part of what is called as “Operation Sadbhavna (goodwill)”.
“By distributing sweets, they try to tell us to forget what we have done to you. But can we forget the blood of our brothers?” said Javid Ahmed, a local of Khansahab, Budgam.