Gen Rawat’s ‘Tough Action’ Remark Evokes Mixed Response

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Srinagar: Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s statement on tough action against stone pelters in Kashmir evoked a mixed response with Union Minister Kiren Rijiju defending him, while the state’s main opposition National Conference echoed the separatists in criticising the stand.

National Conference spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu on Thursday dubbed the statement of the Army Chief as “tragic” and said the government, instead, should approach and engage with the youth of the militancy-hit Kashmir Valley.

“Mobs rushing to encounter sites should concern us and alarm us into constructive political action – NOT issuing threats of ‘no mercy’. The Govt needs to engage politically with the alienated youth of Kashmir – threats and warnings will only compound their hostility,” he said in a series of tweets.

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He said it was “tragic that New Delhi was warning the alienated youth of Kashmir through army chiefs.” Union Minister of State Kiren Rijiju’s response that “the country’s interest is supreme” is a firm endorsement of his statement made during the wreath laying ceremony of the troopers killed at the Palam air base last year.

“There should be action against the stone pelters and whoever works against national interest as national interest is supreme,” he told reporters in Delhi.

He added that whatever “Gen Rawat 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.” The Hurriyat had also reacted to Rawat’s statement saying it showed the General’s ignorance about ground realities in Kashmir.

“It shows his (Gen Rawat’s) lack of knowledge…Kashmiri youth have not taken to arms for fun nor are they made to hit streets in protest but they have been forced… as the space of Kashmiris has been squeezed,” Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said in a statement.

The stern message from Rawat came after three soldiers faced heavy stone-pelting at Parray Mohalla of Bandipore in north Kashmir when they were about to launch an operation against militants holed up there. Alerted by the stone-pelters, the militants had got an opportunity to fire hand grenades and empty a few magazines from AK-rifles into the advancing troopers, leaving three jawans dead and some others, including a Commanding officer of CRPF, injured. One terrorist managed to flee from the spot.

General Rawat had said security forces in Jammu and Kashmir were facing higher casualties due to the manner in which the locals were preventing them from conducting the operations and “at times even supporting the terrorists to escape”.

Meanwhile, the CRPF which forms an essential part of the internal security grid in the Kashmir valley, today said locals were under pressure from militants to help them flee in certain areas of the state which was harming the anti-terror operations. CRPF Inspector General (Operations) in Srinagar, Zulfiquar Hasan asserted that the forces have been acting with restraint in crowded areas to check any collateral damage and the residents should not succumb to the threats of the militants.

“The casualties (of the security forces in recent operations) have taken place in crowded areas and the forces operate with restraint so that there is no collateral damage.

But the crowds break the cordon and help the militants to flee. “This is happening in certain areas of Kashmir, and villagers and local residents do this under pressure from militants,” Hasan said.