A day after four Army personnel, including a Major, were killed in two separate encounters in Kashmir Valley, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat in a warning said on Wednesday that stone pelters and those who help “terrorists escape” or display Pakistani flags would be treated as “anti nationals”. He further added that the army would “get them” and take “tough action against them”.
The decision came as he blamed the “local population” for creating hurdles for the army to conduct military operations.
On Thursday, authorities asked Kashmiris to avoids places of encounters between security forces and militants for the same reason and decided to impose prohibitory orders in the radius of 3 kms from such sites in three districts barring only the movement of ambulances, medical, paramedical staff and government employees.
Although Rawat’s words resonated with the government’s opinion, it faced a lot of opposition from the National Conference (NC) and the separatist parties and the Congress.
Speaking to reporters, Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister for Home Affairs said:
There should be action against the stone pelters and whoever works against national interest as national interest is supreme
However, NC spokesperson, Junaid Azim Mattu dubbed Rawat’s statements as “tragic” warning such moves will only alienate the youth of Kashmir and “compound their hostility”.
Moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq too criticised Army Chief Bipin Rawat's statement saying:
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.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad 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 1000 kids were affected by splinters, 1200 kids lost their eyes.
As part of its efforts to bring teenagers back into the national mainstream, Jammu and Kashmir police is counselling the "misguided" Valley youth to prevent them from falling prey to anti-national propaganda.
"Going beyond its mandate of normal policing, J&K Police transforming hearts and minds by instilling national pride in the youth of the Valley," Director General of Police S P Vaid said in a tweet.
With inputs from PTI.