The Army’s love affair with ikhwanis or surrendered terrorists inducted into its ranks appears to have turned sour. Plans to raise more units composed of surrendered terrorists have been shelved, five years after the Army began inducting them as soldiers in Kashmir.
Senior officers in the Army Headquarters said the surrendered terrorists-turned-soldiers lacked discipline and were indulging in settling personal scores and intimidation of locals.
Ikhwanis, however, were not always the Army’s bad boys.
The Army brass acknowledged they had facilitated several successful counter-terrorism operations in the Valley by providing valuable leads. The 162 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) JAKLI, raised in 2004-05 with surrendered terrorists at its core, has eliminated around 300 terrorists since its inception. The tally, officers agree, is respectable even when compared to results produced by regular infantry units.
A senior officer said, “The experiment has produced mixed results. We cannot let the rogue elements alienate the local population and dent the Army’s image. No new ikhwani units are in the pipeline.” Surrendered terrorists are regularly assigned to different units to strengthen intelligence gathering as they have knowledge of the terrain and possible terrorist movement.
A Colonel serving in the Valley said, “The sore point is they haven’t been able to shake off the gun culture. They are known to settle personal scores and intimidate locals.”
The Army may halting this experiment but there’s no move to dump the surrendered terrorists within its ranks. Another officer said, “We have to protect them from terrorists who look at them as betrayers. If we let them go, they will be eliminated.”
The Army has acknowledged the valour and contribution of the ikhwanis with military decorations. The awards won by the 162 Infantry Battalion include a Shaurya Chakra, four Sena Medals, one Vishisht Seva Medal, 13 commendation cards from the Army chief and 23 commendation cards from the Northern Army commander.