Mainstream politicians as well as separatists in Kashmir have criticized army chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement warning local youth against creating hurdles during anti militancy operations even as the government came to his defence.
Both the camps said that such a statement would fuel a spurt in militancy in the state.
The opposition National Conference expressed disappointment and dismay over the “belligerent remarks” of the army chief and said such posturing would compound the situation and increase the hostility in the Valley.
“Youth rushing towards encounter sites and incidents of stone-pelting on the forces during encounters are worrying and alarming signs of the sense of alienation and disenchantment in Kashmir,” NC Spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu said in a statement.
“The need of the hour is to understand and acknowledge the deep sense of isolation in Kashmir and deal with it with statesmanship and magnanimity. Threatening and warning youth who are already anguished and irrational to the sense of caring little for their lives will be of little consequence but would only push them farther from reconciliation,” the NC statement said.
The ruling People Democratic Party’s criticism of General Rawat’s statement was expectedly oblique.
PDP general secretary and vice-chairperson of Horticulture Development Board Nizamuddin Bhat told a news channel that the army must exercise restraint.
“This has not happened today, there have been occasions in the past also. That is why we say in any circumstances, a disciplined force observes restraint. This is a welfare state and we are committed to certain principles,” Bhat said.
General Rawat on Wednesday said that people interfering during anti-militancy operations in Jammu and Kashmir will be considered anti-nationals and will face action. His tough talk came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he paid last respects here to three of the four soldiers, including a Major, who were killed in two separate encounters in Kashmir on Tuesday.
A trend has emerged lately in Kashmir valley where local youth flock encounter sites during raging gun fights to help militants flee.
Referring to the statement of the army chief, hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani said “India’s arrogance and stale thinking is the basic reason for continuous bloodshed and political uncertainty in state”.
“People of state and particularly the youth are up against this hegemony and suppression,” said Geelani.
Militant turned separatist and chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) Yasin Malik termed the statement of army chief as a case of “political immaturity”.
He said that Indian army chief’s statement amounts to direct threat to the whole “Kashmiri nation.”
“Indian army chief must realize that he cannot scare a nation that has sacrificed more than a hundred thousand of its men, women, youth and children during ongoing resistance movement. This statement may add to the miseries of Kashmiris but it will also push many youth to the wall and, drive them towards arms struggle and hence promote violence in this region,” said Malik.
Moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that instead of issuing threats, it would be prudent for the Indian army chief to accept the ground realities in Kashmir.
“Indian military and political leadership had no other option but to come to the grips of the reality that Kashmir issue cannot be dealt with military might or with threats of war but by involving all parties to Kashmir dispute in a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue process, which could also help end political uncertainty in entire South Asia,” he said.
Independent MLA Engineer Abdul Rashid said General Rawat’s statement was a “confession that the state has lost the control in Kashmir”.
“While New Delhi doesn’t get tired claiming Kashmiris as its own people, the threat given by General Rawat has exposed the claim. The threat is a confession that militants have mass support and calling them terrorists is not the solution. His warning can be his professional compulsion but New Delhi must see and analyse it beyond that,” he said.
The Government defended the Army Chief, saying his statement was in national interest.
“There should be action against the stone pelters and whoever works against national interest as national interest is supreme,” union minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju told reporters in Delhi.
“Whatever the Army Chief has said, he has said that in national interest. There is no need to misinterpret it. There is nothing wrong in the army chief’s statement,” he added.
The Congress was guarded in its response. It said action must be taken against such elements irrespective of their political dispensation.
“Yes the army chief is correct. It is therefore important for the army chief to go and arrest and take action against whoever may be, whether he is from political dispensation or he is from civil authorities. Action must be taken against every anti-national,” Congress leader Tom Vadakkan said.
(With inputs from Kumar Uttam in New Delhi)