Army Chief only `expressed concern` not `threatened action` on locals against supporting militants in Kashmir: BJP

New Delhi, Feb 17: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday came out in support of Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, who had on Wednesday cautioned locals against supporting militants in Jammu and Kashmir.

Rawat’s stern message had not gone down well with the Congress, which criticised the lack of government’s initiative for the dismal situation in Kashmir.

In the wake of the political slugfest that has broken out over Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat’s statement, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh reiterated that the Congress, as well as other political parties, should not drag the Indian Army into politics.

Addressing a press conference, Dr Singh said that it was the sensitivity of the Army Chief which made him caution the youth of Kashmir. His concern should not be read as a warning.

He further urged all political parties not to do anything which may affect the morale of the armed forces.

“We appeal to political sections and Congress to not to indulge in any kind of politicking at cost of security forces’ morale.”

He added that the whole country was indebted to the Army.

On Wednesday, Rawat had said: “Our aim is to bring peace and tranquility in the Kashmir Valley. These terrorists have now entered villages and we are conducting operations against them. We find the local population is somehow not supporting security forces’ action.”

Speaking on the high casualties among the security forces in anti-terrorist operations, the Chief of Army Staff had said: “Our aim has been to conduct operations in a way that don’t endanger the civilians. However, sometimes locals prevent us from conducting military operations – at times even supporting terrorists to escape.”

“It leads to higher casualties among the security forces,” he had added.

Cautioning locals against supporting militants, General Rawat had said: “We will request locals in Kashmir that people who have picked up arms — and these are local boys — and if they want to continue with acts of terrorism by displaying flags of the Islamic State and Pakistan, we will treat them as anti-national elements and go after them.”

Four soldiers and as many militants were killed in two gunfights in the Kashmir Valley on Tuesday.

Responding to Rawat’s statement, Jammu and Kashmir’s main opposition National Conference spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu had 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 had said in a series of tweets.

He had added that it was “tragic that New Delhi was warning the alienated youth of Kashmir through army chiefs.”

Later, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had criticised the lack of government initiative for the dismal situation in Kashmir and said: “The government is to be blamed for the situation in Kashmir. Even we ran the government, why was it not so bad then? To threaten the Kashmiri youth like this is unjustified. Last year, 1,000 kids were affected by splinters, 1,200 kids lost their eyes.”

(With Agency inputs)

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