Indian army chief’s warning to stone-pelters in Kashmir valley draws fire

MAMOSA Report — Deep concerns have been raised over the Indian army chief’s stern warning to the young people of Indian-administered Kashmir to not create “hurdles” in the counter-terrorism operations in the restive state. The tough talking Indian Army General Bipin Rawat said those “who help militants” jeopardizing security operations will face strict action.

Against the backdrop of multiple anti-insurgency operations in the tense occupied valley in recent days, the Indian army chief said the interference of civilians increases the likelihood of higher death toll.

Referring to stone-pelters in the occupied valley, Rawat said: “If they become a problem in our operation and if that causes losses to our soldiers, we will not hesitate to use weapons.”

Speaking to reporters in New Delhi, he added: “We would now request the local population that people who have picked up arms, and they are the local boys, if they want to continue with these acts of terrorism, displaying flags of Isis (Islamic State) and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them.” The Indian-administered Kashmir government has ordered the public to stay away from a 3km radius of counter-terrorism operations following Rawat’s statement.

“India now portrays any resistance in Kashmir as terrorism. Its powerful Western allies now accept this equation, enabling India to act with complete impunity in suppressing Kashmiri demands for azadi (freedom),” said a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Pakistan and India relations remain rocky with several failed talks on the core issue — Kashmir dispute. Pakistan wants talks be held and strictly on the basis of the UN resolutions on Kashmir. India calls Kashmir its internal matter.

The Indian security forces have been engaged in multiple anti-militancy measures inIndia-controlled Kashmir over the past few weeks targeting insurgents and militants hideouts and their meeting places – an uptick since the killing of Kashmiri militant leader Wani in July last year.

Rawat’s remarks have attracted criticism from some quarters. His threat is seen as aggravating the situation rather than contributing to resolving it.

“Youths rushing to 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. The need of the hour is to understand the deep sense of isolation in Kashmir,” said the National Conference party’s spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu. “Aggressive statements will fuel the spurt in local militancy in Kashmir.”

Separatists have also taken the opportunity to pour scorn on Rawat, the Indian government and its armed forces.

Syed Ali Geelani, the chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, said in a statement: “Since 1947 India is carrying out these bloodbaths. They want to strengthen their forced control and even won’t hesitate to kill every soul for this purpose. Their arrogance and stale thinking are the basic reasons for continuous bloodshed and political uncertainty in state. People of state and particularly the youth are up against this hegemony and suppression.”

The army chief’s statement has been supported by Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar, however, it has invited massive political reactions. While the PDP-BJP combine, which is ruling the state is completely mum, the Opposition has slammed the statement.

Some political leaders are terming it as a threat to people by the army.

Independent MLA Engineer Rasheed said, “General Rawat’s warning is a confession that militants have mass support. General’s threat may be his professional compulsion, but New Delhi must see and analyze it beyond that. While militancy is completing its thirty years, New Delhi has failed to consolidate its constituency in Kashmir.”

The main Opposition party National Conference went on even further, when its senior leader called the statement as moral victory for militants.

“The Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s statement is the moral victory for the militants and for those who support and follow them. Army chief forgot that there are aspirations and sentiments and people want resolution to Kashmir issue,” National Conference leader Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal said.

Even separatist parties have jumped in to criticize the army chief’s statements. A statement from JKLF Chief Yasin Malik termed the statement as “political immaturity”.

Meanwhile, the J&K police have already issued a circular asking people to desist from assembling around the encounter sites.


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