The Kashmiri youth from Anantnag overcame immense difficulties to appear for the Army recruitment drive. They had to travel by foot for kilometers during the night to reach the recruitment spot, as travelling during the day would have made them easy targets of the separatists who would not view their participation in the drive kindly. Despite curfew and unrest in Anantnag, hundreds of youngsters from the villages rushed clandestinely to the recruitment venue, as word had it in south Kashmir’s villages that this time there would be no verification procedure except for scrutinising the candidate’s possible militant links. “We have been told that even if we had been active stone-pelters we will get this job,” said one of the youngsters who travelled 15 kilometres on foot to reach the venue. These candidates not only faced the risk of bearing the brunt of the anger of the stone throwing crowds, but also risked ostracisation in their respective villages.
Many of the youth tried to avoid the media, by saying that they feared that their lives would be endangered if they spoke openly on the matter. Most of them said that their families were badly in need of financial support. However, a few of them told TV news channels that they were ready to join the Army and serve the country.
Initially 6,000 youth had applied for the Army posts, but on the day of recruitment around 400 to 500 could make it to the venue. In the drive for the recruitment of Special Police Officers (SPOs), according to the authorities, around 25,000 youth applied for these posts. The government has decided to counter the stone-pelting mobs by the recruitment of SPOs in J&K Police and they have received a healthy response so far. A senior police officer told this newspaper that even stone-pelters can apply for these posts and they would be very lenient while giving those jobs so that they are able to come out of this cycle of violence.