Srinagar: Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s warning to people “who help militants” is at odds with the “restraint” and “reconciliation” that is part of the 16-page ‘Agenda for Alliance’ document of the PDP-BJP government.
Though government spokesperson Naeem Akhtar did not respond to repeated calls and text, some PDP leaders and ministers told Kashmir Reader that “restraint” is the stated policy of the government and the statement of the army chief is contrary to it.
“Such statements should be avoided. We should engage people, especially at this moment,” said a senior leader of the PDP, requesting anonymity.
On Wednesday, Gen Rawat said that people interfering with anti-militancy operations in Kashmir will be considered anti-nationals and will face harsh action. The PDP leaders that Reader spoke to expressed discomfort with this “aggressive” posturing.
The opposition National Conference, too, criticised Rawat’s statement. State spokesperson of the NC, Junaid Azim Mattoo, said it was tragic that New Delhi was still trying to talk to the youth of Kashmir through the defence establishment instead of engaging them politically.
“The need of the hour is to understand and acknowledge the deep sense of isolation in Kashmir and to deal with it with statesmanship and magnanimity,” Mattoo said, adding that “threatening” and “warning” youth would only push them farther from reconciliation.
Kashmir University’s head of law department, Dr Sheikh Showkat, said the “aggressive” posturing is the anti-thesis of the “so-called healing touch” promised by the PDP.
Public intervention in “encounter” situations betweens militants and government troops has increased to an extraordinary degree in the past two years, especially in south Kashmir. Last week, such public intervention led to the killing of a civilian and the wounding of two-dozen people in Kulgam. An estimated 2,000 people had surrounded the site and engaged troops with stone-throwing.
Such protests have in several instances helped the trapped militants to escape. They have also created more support for militancy in Kashmir. The public gatherings at sites of gun battles is reminiscent of the peak-militancy years of 1990s.
Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference (M) Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said that instead of issuing threats, it would be advisable for the Indian Army chief to accept the ground reality in Kashmir. This ground reality, he said, is of government forces “firing indiscriminately on unarmed youth and peaceful protestors, and arresting innocent civilians in fake cases and.”
“Indian military and political leadership has no other option but to come to terms with the reality that the Kashmir issue cannot be dealt with military might or with threats of war. Only by involving all the parties to the Kashmir dispute in a meaningful and result-oriented dialogue process can help end the political uncertainty in South Asia,” he said.
JKLF chief Yasin Malik said General Rawat’s statement amounts to a direct threat to the “Kashmiri nation”.
“Indian army chief must realise that he cannot scare a nation that has sacrificed more than a hundred thousand of its men, women, youth and children for the resistance movement. This statement may add to the miseries of Kashmiris but it will also push many youth to the wall and drive them towards armed struggle,” Malik said.