"Contact tracing" is the new strategy being adopted by the army in insurgency-hit Kashmir Valley and under it, friends and relatives of local terrorist recruits or those killed in encounters are located and counselled not to take up the gun in a rush of blood, a top army official said in Srinagar.
In addition to this, efforts are made to contact the families of youths identified as vulnerable to radicalisation so that they too are counselled to guide their wards.
Lt Gen B S Raju, who heads the strategic XV-Corps in Kashmir, feels that correct guidance at the right time or vulnerable stage can help prevent misguided youths from taking the wrong step.
During his tenure as the head of the 'Victor Force', which comprises many army units and looks after the four strife-torn districts of South Kashmir, such efforts paid off rich dividends.
The force looks after the districts of Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam.
"The army always believes in breaking the chain and that was a task that I along with my team undertook from the very beginning," Lt Gen Raju said.
He said an analysis was done by the army, of encounters and terrorist recruitment that took place in South Kashmir, and the process of “contact tracing” of any local militant killed in an encounter was launched by officers and men on ground.
The results have been encouraging and "many prospective militants have been weaned away from terrorism,” Lt Gen Raju said refusing to either divulge further details or numbers.
He also did not indicate the number of locals who had picked up guns this year, saying that "numbers are only notional and the aim is to counter the idea of picking up the gun".
However, Deputy Inspector General of Police (South Kashmir) Atul Goyal was quoted to have said that around 80 local youths had joined various militant groups this year.
Lt Gen Raju said that in many cases, mothers and family members release social media messages requesting their loved ones to come back from the path of violence. Families and society have a huge role in providing the right guidance to misguided youths, he said.
Societal acceptance and support to a youth who chooses to come back from the path of violence will make a big difference, Lt Gen Raju said.
"You see, in a rush of blood, people tend to take wrong steps and that is the frame of mind which we want to address. It has been encouraging that parents and elders in several families have come forward and counselled their kids," he said.
Lt Gen Raju, as head of the Victor Force, has to his credit the famous surrender of a 20-year-old youth, Majid Khan, from Anantnag in 2016 when the youth had joined the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group.
Majid came back after appeals of his mother reached him. An assurance was given that his life would change and that was ensured. "Today, he is in his final year studying outside Jammu and Kashmir and besides this I would refrain from divulging anything," Lt Gen Raju said.