Thousands at Indian Army recruitment rally in Kashmir

Police recruitment rally in Srinagar (file photo) The police and and army regularly hold recruitment drives

At least 10,000 people have attended a recruitment rally of the Indian Army in Indian-administered Kashmir.

In doing so, they have disregarded the struggle for independence which has been ongoing for the last 20 years.

The week-long rally is being held barely a few months after last year's widespread public unrest during which more than 100 people were killed.

Many of those killed in the protests were teenagers who were shot by the security forces.

Army Deputy Director General of Recruitment Col Sanjiv Sirohi said that 7,500 candidates had been found eligible for recruitment.

But in what may be seen as a sign of the army's eagerness to employ young soldiers, only about 4,500 of these participated in the various physical tests.

The candidates, who came from various parts of the Kashmir Valley, said the army had come to their villages to tell them about the recruitment rally.

"Fifty-four boys from our village attended the recruitment rally," one recruit from the border town of Handwara told the BBC.

"By joining the army, I will help my family which is steeped in poverty. Besides, I will have an opportunity to serve my nation."

Dilemma

Most recruits expressed similar sentiments, explaining that they were also prepared to take the risk of being targeted by militant separatists by joining the army and escaping unemployment.

"The rally is a step by the army to ameliorate the condition of unemployed youths in the Kashmir Valley," Col Sirohi said.

"The huge turnout implies that the army has created a niche for itself in the hearts and minds of Kashmiris."

The army has held recruitment rallies in the valley before, every time attracting big crowds. 

Observers say it shows the dilemma faced by the average Kashmiri - who shares separatist sentiments on the one hand but is frustrated by being unemployed on the other.       

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