//Army's PR exercise takes a beating

Army's PR exercise takes a beating

NDTV Correspondent, Tuesday, January 24, 2006 (New Delhi):

A year ago the Indian Army vowed to change its image and make it a more friendly force in Jammu and Kashmir. But units operating in the state are still rated on the number of militants killed.

When Gen JJ Singh took charge as the Chief of Army Staff in February last year, he said that there would no longer be any pressure to build up figures through fake encounters and third degree interrogations.

Singh took charge amid reports of fake encounters in Siachen and the rape and murder of women in army custody in Manipur and Kashmir.

A year later, 14 units received the Army Chief’s banner for the best battalions in counter-insurgency operations.

NDTV examines moves to balance operational success with compassion as thousands of troops die in fighting the insurgency.

Point system

A letter from Army Headquarters in June 2005 spelt out new rules for gauging performance of units.
Under the new rules, four points are to be given for every militant killed and three points for capture of an armed militant.

Units will be allotted one point for seizing an unarmed militant and five points for aborting a suicide attack without losing a trooper.

Death of a soldier in combat meant 10 negative points, and a soldier killing his own comrade would mean 20 negative points while about 30 points are deducted for suicide.

The letter also prescribes negative points for committing rape and human rights violations – but only if a soldier is convicted of the offense.

In 2005, there was only one conviction for human rights violation in Kashmir.

When three young boys at a wedding party were accidentally killed near Trehgam there was no human rights violation despite the ill-will earned and no negative points for that unit.

Flawed system

Security experts say the feedback system is not proper.

"In practice it is not possible for the Army to get accurate feedback," said Major General Afsir Karim, an expert on Jammu and Kashmir.

"If it [feedback] comes through army channels it will be favorable to the army. [If it comes from] people who are aggrieved… it may be exaggerated," he added.

The Army apparently agreed and dropped the feedback plans from civilians on the ground that if civilians were being harassed, they would come forward and lodge a complaint.