On Christmas, Army plays Santa for kids in Kashmir

On Christmas, Indian Army plays Santa for kids in Kashmir

An army personnel dressed as Santa Claus distributes sweets among local youth during Christmas celebrations at Army Camp Larkipora in Anantnag district of south Kashmir, Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Credit: PTI Photo

Sepoy Gurvinder Singh of the Army's 19 Rashtriya Rifles was given a new mission in Kashmir on Friday -- 'Mission Smile'.

His crisp olive greens gave way to a red costume, his assault rifle was replaced by a goodie bag and "Fauji" Santa was ready to welcome kids from the valley for a day filled with fun, with endless supplies of goodies, toffees, chocolates and some tips on their future and career.

The Rashtriya Rifles encampment at Larkipora, 65 km from Srinagar, was abuzz on Christmas as the thumping of boots was replaced by giggles of children from neighbouring localities of Wessu, Pethdialgam, Brenty, Kokernag, Vailu and Gadol who were invited here by the commanding officer as a gesture to connect with locals.

"We are working under the guidance of GOC of Victor Force and connecting with locals. The idea is to see the kids smile and that's what we are doing," said Col Dharmendra Yadav, commanding officer of the 19 Rashtriya Rifles of the Army's Victor Force, which looks after the militancy-hit areas of south Kashmir.

He said the unit deployed its sepoy to become Santa and distribute small gifts to the kids and school-going children who were also counselled about their careers.

Major Rahul Jaeenger asked the children to clear their doubts and focus on their dreams.

"Every child has some speciality which needs to be toned up," he told PTI.

Lt Col Manpreet Singh feels that connecting with the kids was nice and it's better to catch them young and showcase the world to them.

Singh distributed all the gifts, while Subedar Harkeerat Singh, a religious teacher, conveyed the importance of Christmas to the children.

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