SRINAGAR: The stern message by the Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, that army will not countenance any interference by public in its operations against militants in Kashmir, has evoked a strong reaction in Kashmir with pro-India politicians also known as unionists terming it as unfortunate saying it was a tacit admission that India has lost control over Kashmir.
"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,” National Conference said in a statement sent to the Kashmir Observer.
"Aggressive, hot-headed statements would fuel the spurt in local militancy in Kashmir and make the challenge of engaging with the youth insurmountable,” it read.
Gen Rawat on Wednesday warned Kashmiri protestors against obstructing anti-militant operations in the Valley while acknowledging that despite many people friendly measures army was not getting the support of people for these operations.
It is considered to be an unprecedented acknowledgment that army was not getting support from local population in its operations against Kashmiri militants. General Rawat also had issued a stern message that the civilians trying to help militants during military operations will be dealt with like militants.
He was speaking to media after paying homage to four slain soldiers in New Delhi. The four soldiers, including an officer, were killed by militants on Tuesday in two separate gunfights in North Kashmir.
Principal pro-India opposition National Conference said, the “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. 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.”
“Young men are choosing the path of armed militancy in Kashmir in numbers that we haven’t seen since the early 90s. Even though the passes along the Line of Control are still snowed shut, militancy related incidents have increased steeply due to a spurt in young, educated local boys picking up the gun. Even after the mayhem and bloodshed of 2016, if New Delhi still thinks warning and threatening the youth will help – it’s a tragic delusion,” the NC statement further said.
“We need to understand there is a significant, palpable social sanctity for militancy in the young demographic in Kashmir and this derives its vitality from the political sentiment and how New Delhi has failed to engage with the sentiment in a sustained and constructive manner. This social sanctity can’t be eradicated by threats of showing ‘no mercy’. If anyone thinks threatening the youth will help – that individual and that establishment has clearly failed to analyze the recent history of the political turmoil in Kashmir.
Repression and retaliation will only fuel the anger”, it said.
Meanwhile, a senior NC politician did not rule out political motives behind the statement of army chief. “May be some people want to use this statement for political purposes,” NC Secretary General and MLA, Ali Mohammad Sagar, told the Kashmir Observer. “It would be a worst case scenario as elections are going on in some states,” he said.
Suggesting Gen Rawat to take lead from his contemporary and former Northern Command chief of Indian Army - Gen D S Hooda, Sagar said, “Gen Hooda was right when he said that we can’t kill people by might but we need to win their hearts and talk to them.”
Terming the statement provocative, Sagar sought explanation from chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, who is also president of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a coalition ally of the ruling BJP.
“Mehbooba Mufti told assembly that she, as a head of the Unified Command, has directed security forces to save and mainstream local militants but the contrary to that Army chief has deflated her claim.”
“Now,” he added, “common people are labelled as over ground workers (OGWs) of militants,” Sagar said.
Senior National Conference politician and former minister, Dr Sheikh Mustafa Kamal said that people in Kashmir have ‘faith and love’ for militants.
He said that the statement of Gen Rawat “amply proves that India has no sympathies with the common people of Kashmir”.
“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,” Kamal said.
Castigating Army Chief, Kamal said, “there is not an iota of doubt in this fact that people in Kashmir have faith and love for militants.”
“Why India has been scared of reality and why it is not accepting the ground reality. The fact is that people have love for militant and that is why they run towards encounter sites to ensure their escape. Instead of threatening the common people, India needs to understand the ground reality,” Kamal said.
Independent lawmaker, Er Sheikh Rasheed, termed the Army Chief’s statement as threat to Kashmiris. However, he added that the statement of Gen Rawat was “a confession that state has lost the control in Kashmir”.
“General’s threat is a confession that militants have mass support and calling them terrorists is not the solution. Gen Rawat’s warning can be his professional compulsion but New Delhi must see and analyse it beyond that. While militancy is completing its thirty years, New Delhi has miserably failed to consolidate its constituency in J&K,” he said.
The lawmaker from border town of Langate said that if the masses do not care of the consequences and put their lives at stake to save the armed militants, “New Delhi must revisit its Kashmir policy and must understand that while General’s words are threat to Kashmiris but not less than an advice for New Delhi, conveying it that J&K is a political problem which has no military solution”.
Centre Endorses General’s Statement
Union Minister, Kiren Rijiju, on Thursday endorsed Army Chief Bipin Rawat’s statement on tough action against those creating hurdles during anti-militant operations in Kashmir, saying “country’s interest is supreme”.
“There should be action against the stone-pelters and whoever works against national interest as national interest is supreme,” he told reporters here.
Rijiju’s comments came after General Rawat said yesterday that hostile conduct of locals was causing higher casualties in the Kashmir Valley and those attacking security forces during anti-militancy operations will be treated as “anti-nationals” and will face “tough action”.
“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 said. Asked about the prevailing security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the Minister of State for Home said he would not like to comment on the routine law and order matters.
General Rawat’s statement came a day after four army personnel, including a Major, were killed in two separate encounters in the Kashmir Valley.
Four militants were killed in the encounters on Tuesday.
People Helping Militants Under Pressure: CRPF
The locals are under pressure from militants to help them flee in certain areas in Kashmir Valley which was harming the 'anti-militant' operations in the Valley, CRPF has said.
The CRPF Inspector General (Operations), Zulfiquar Hasan, on Thursday 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”.
His remarks came a day after Army chief General Bipin Rawat warned those attacking security forces during anti-militancy operations in Kashmir of "tough action".
"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.
The IG said the security forces, in encounters, also face incidents of stone pelting and all this "harms the operations".
"I would say locals should not get under pressure from militants. We are exercising a lot of restraint so that there is no casualty on the side of the crowds and that adds to our problem. We are constantly trying to evolve how could we do the operations better so that there is no harm to the people present around," he said.
Rawat’s Statement A Threat To Kill Civilians: Geelani
Hurriyat patriarch Syed Ali Geelani on Thursday ridiculed the statement of Indian army chief saying that the statement has proved the “stale thinking of the ‘General’ and illustrates that his thinking is unfair and lacks political maturity”.
General Bipin Rawat, the chief of Indian army, on Wednesday in a warning said that people who come to rescue of militants during gunfights in Valley will be treated as over ground workers of militants.
“People exhibit their extreme valour and without any fear even face tough and dangerous situations,” Geelani said in a statement
“It is clear indication that whole nation is against the occupation and should have served an alarm for Indian rulers that movement is not confined to a few but whole nation is determined to offer their serves for cherished goal,” said Geelani in a statement.
Terming the statement a threat to carry killing spree of civilians, Geelani said, “since 1947, India is carrying these bloodbaths.” “They want to strengthen their forced occupation and even won’t hesitate to kill each soul for this purpose,” said Syed Ali Geelani.
“Their 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,” he added.
Reflection Of Tyrannical Mindset: Mirwaiz
Hurriyat Conference (M) Chairperson, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, on Thursday said the “threat” issued by General Bipin Rawat to the people of Kashmir is “unfortunate and reflects a tyrannical mindset towards the people of Kashmir”.
“The army chief needs to ask the Executive of his country as to why is the institution of army being used by them to crush a mass political movement of people demanding their political right and why do people at the obvious risk to their lives gather? Only because they see them as freedom fighters pushed by the arrogance of Indian state which is not willing to address the Kashmir dispute politically and pushing educated youth towards armed resistance,” he said in a statement.
Mirwaiz said before labelling Kashmiris as “anti-nationals”, “General Rawat should realize that Kashmiri nation was not fighting any nation or any political party but striving for its just rights which the Indian state had dealt with by killing tens and thousands of Kashmiris, subjecting over ten thousand people to enforced disappearances, burying thousands in unmarked graves, damaging property worth billions of dollars, harassing people, torturing youth with third degree in interrogation centres, oppression and suppression, arrests and detentions, restrictions, custodial killings and even sending people to gallows in fake cases”.
The Hurriyat Conference (M) said, “instead of reining in his trigger-happy, unbridled, arrogant forces, people were being threatened to face the consequences of staging peaceful protests, which would deteriorate the already worse situation.”
“The 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 added.
It Will Push Youth Towards Armed Struggle: Malik
Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairperson, Muhammad Yasin Malik, on Thursday said, General Bipin Rawat’s statement is a “direct threat to the Kashmiri nation”.
In a press statement by JKLF, Malik said, “threats and intimidations cannot break the will of nations that have resolved to break the shackles of illegal occupation.”
Terming Bipin’s statement as ‘absurd’, Malik added, “issuing such statements has shown his anti-human attitude and lack of political wisdom.”
Malik termed the Army chief’s statement as “an open invitation to many (youths) for picking up arms”. “India’s 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 the on-going resistance movement.”
“What army chief has said 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,” he said.
Threats Won’t Stop Us: DeM
Reacting to the India’s Army chief statement, Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM), on Thursday said that the Indian army has “already unleashed itself on the innocent population of Kashmir”.
“Whom is the army chief threatening,” Secretary General of DeM Nahida Nasreen asked, “we all, including our kids, are the over ground workers of Mujahideen.”
She said that Indian army has been using force since 1947 and “are again threatening us with the same”.
“We are ready to sacrifice ourselves for Mujahideen and will continue to gather around the encounter sites and help our Mujahideen escape from the clutches of occupiers at the cast of our lives because they are our saviours,” she added.
“She said it is a lesson to India and its army that we all are with Tehreek and are its OGWs,” she said, “the threats won’t stop us from pursuing our dreams.”