Army Trains To Avert Collateral Damage In Operations

24 August 2009

Jammu: In Jammu and Kashmir, rising voices against the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) are prompting the Army to try and train its men to reduce collateral damage and curb human rights violations. The army has begun training its men in uniform for situations involving encounter (shoot-out) scenarios, safe removal of civilians from hostage situations, error-free firing and tackling grenade explosions. Soldiers have been enacting an hostage and shootout situation where terrorists are holed up in a house with civilians inside. Exercises like these are helping the Army reduce civilian casualties in Kashmir at a time when it is increasingly facing flak for human rights violations. 'The guiding principle remains that the civilian life is of utmost importance to us. Their life is protected at all costs,' said Lt Colonel Anil Bana. With demand for revocation of the AFSPA picking up, the army is working hard to figure out ways to minimise and avoid the violation of human rights acts. This kind of care and consideration has become vital in an insurgency like situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir that has lasted over two decades. Over the years, the Army has adapted itself to counter insurgency techniques, but civilians getting killed in the cross fire had been a sore point. A case in point is the Bomai incident in March where two people died in indiscriminate firing. 'In the school we have a lot of classes on human rights violations and what all are the guiding principles to us to operate in these areas,' added Lt Colonel Anil Bana of the Core Battle school. The focus is now on storming rooms and improving fire accuracy, two major skills needed for hostage rescue. The Army says the training is paying off slowly. In the last three months there have no civilian casualties in encounters.