NATIONAL

Infiltration still on: Army commander

The GOC 15 Corps, V.G. Patankar, talking to the girls of the ``desh sampark'' programme in Srinagar on Saturday. — Photo: Nissar Ahmad

The GOC 15 Corps, V.G. Patankar, talking to the girls of the ``desh sampark'' programme in Srinagar on Saturday. — Photo: Nissar Ahmad  

SRINAGAR OCT. 5. The General Officer Commanding (GOC) of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt. Gen. V.G. Patankar, today said that there was no let-up in the infiltration of militants from across the border and that there was no time-frame for wiping out militancy from Jammu and Kashmir.

Talking to mediapersons at the Flag-Off ceremony of a group of 20 women from Uri on a `Desh Sampark Yatra' to Delhi and other places, he said "infiltration ... is in full swing. That I can tell you categorically.'' ",Yes I did say in June that infiltration had gone down but it started again later'' he said in response to a question.

Gen. Patankar, who is the Army's commander for the Kashmir valley, said "the militants used to be here before elections also and are continuing to be here. It will take time to wipe out militancy completely.'' Till the passes are open "they will try to infiltrate''.

Denying the allegations that the Army resorted to coercion in the elections, the GOC said "there is no basis for these allegations". "They are a misrepresentation of facts. We are just stuck to our job. That is to create a conducive environment for the polls. Militants failed in the first phase to keep people away. That is why they stepped up their activities in the second and third as their objective was to disrupt the elections.''

The ``Desh Sampark Yatra'' has been organised by the Uri-based 15 Maratha Light Infantry which is aimed at enlightening the womenfolk of remote villages close to the Line of Control. The group will be visiting Delhi, Agra, Gulbarga, Mumbai, and Banglore and has interaction with the President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the Chief of Army Staff on its itinerary. Brig. Ramesh Halgali, Commander of Uri sector, said it was the first such exercise of getting the women to tour various parts of the country independently. Accompanied by a local guardian and three women teachers, the group will return on October 29.

The women in the age group of 20 to 30 are excited. Shahida Begum, who hails from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, has been in Uri for six years after marriage. "It is far better than the place where I have come from'' she said. Nasreen Bano was equally happy and had come to Srinagar for the first time. "It is a good beginning and we hope it continues with other areas. We had no problems and our parents allowed us'' was the response of Nazira Bano. Col C. Ramesh, Commanding Officer of 15 Maratha, has been instrumental in persuading the parents and guardians of the girls to agree to the trip.

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