Army Chief’s Statement Snowballs Into Political Controversy

SRINAGAR: The warning of Indian army chief to Kashmir protestors apparently has snowballed in to a major political controversy with Congress seeing political motives in it.

Although, the BJP led Union government tried to downplay it, the former chief minister and current leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Gh Nabi Azad, on Friday alleged that Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement, which issued a warning against Kashmiri protestors, is motivated by political interests.

“The government should be blamed for the situation in Kashmir. Even we ran the government. It was not so bad then. Last year 1000 kids were affected by splinters, 1200 kids lost their eyes,” Congressman Ghulam Nabi Azad told a news gathering agency.

“To threaten the Kashmiri youth like this is unjustified. It can be the Centre’s policy, not the Army’s,” he added.

General Rawat, while paying tributes to four slain India army soldiers of the Handwara and Bandipora encounters, had said, “the people who have picked up arms, the local boys, if they want to continue with such acts of terrorism and display flags of the ISIS and Pakistan then we will treat them as anti-national elements.”

In the wake of the controversy that culminated after this remark, the Congress dubbed it as having dubious connotations, while the Union government has been reiterating its appeal to not drag the Indian Army into politics.

BJP Comes To General’s Rescue

The right wing Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) on Friday defended Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s statement on tough action against Kashmiris hampering counter-militancy operations in Kashmir and accused the Congress of speaking “in the voice of separatists and politicising the Army for lowly political gains”.

MoS in Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Jitendra Singh, who hails from Jammu & Kashmir, attacked Congress leaders for criticising General Rawat’s statement as he claimed that what the Army Chief said “was not a warning but a concern expressed by him over civilians’ safety”.

Addressing a press conference, he asked Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to make his stand clear on the comments of his party colleagues.

“It is appalling and a matter of concern, worry that the Congress is falling to this temptation of politicising the Army chief’s statement … This party can go to any extent for political benefits. It is speaking the voice of separatists for lowly political gains,” he alleged.

Citing statements of Congress leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sandeep Diskhit, Singh said these were “quite unbecoming of a national party”.

Defending General Rawat, the Union minister said, “what the Army chief has said is not a warning but an expression of concern. He is worried that innocent people may be hit and become collateral damage (in anti-militant operation). He is saying that don’t come in the line of fire,” Singh said.

He also targeted the National Conference, the main opposition party in Kashmir, saying once out of power it adopted the jargon of separatist parties, something the Congress was also doing.

Meanwhile, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar Friday asked the opposition to “keep pace” with democracy and “not politicise” the armed forces.

“Opposition should not politicise everything. They have raised doubts on surgical strike which was never done before in history (of India). Now they are reacting and politicising an issue which they should not be doing. So I request them to keep pace with democracy and not politicise the military,” he told reporters in Imphal.


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