Kashmir has been in the news for all the wrong reasons since the last few decades. The burning Kashmir valley, the riots, insurgents and terrorists getting shielded by the civilians and many more such cases have not helped in building a peaceful image of the Kashmir valley. The Indian Army has continuously tried hard to bring normalcy in the valley. The methods used by the Indian Army have often been criticized by the very same people who throw stones and support separatists. The Human right groups too have not helped the situation in Kashmir by constantly blaming the Army and security Forces for the actions taken against the terrorists and stone pelters. The Indian Chief of Army Staff General, Bipin Rawat in an interview given to The Indian Express talked about the Kashmir crisis and about ways to tackle the situation in the valley.
“AZADI will not happen, you cannot fight the Army”, this was the official 9 word declaration of Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat for the youth of Kashmir.
The fact that Kashmiri youth continue to join terrorist factions is a grave cause of concern for General Rawat. Stressing upon the issue that violence is not the right way to express dissent, General Rawat said, “Why are you picking up weapons? We will always fight those who seek Azadi, those who want to secede. (Azadi) is not going to happen, never”. General Rawat also mentioned that he was disturbed by the killings in Kashmir but the security forces had no other option but to retaliate when force was used against them. He also pointed towards the atrocities committed by Syrian and Pakistani forces in their respective regions, stating that the Indian security forces try their best to avoid civilian casualties.
General Rawat expressed anguish over the behaviour of the people while security forces operations are being carried out. Security forces pointed out that during operations, targeting the terrorists have often been disrupted by civilians, who gather in large numbers and pelt stones at the forces. He further said, “I don’t understand why people are coming out in huge numbers to disrupt our operations. Who is inciting them? If they want that the militants aren’t killed, they should go and tell them to come out without their weapons so that nobody is killed,’’ he said. “Let anyone of them say — mein le kay aata hun (I will bring him out). We will halt our operation. We can’t allow people to disrupt our operations and help terrorists to flee”.
General Rawat also mentioned in his interview that, how Burhan Wani’s encounter has changed the situation in the valley. The death of notorious terrorist, Burhan Wani has sparked off a series of stone-pelting and attacks on security forces. Pakistan supplied terrorists entering the valley has changed the mindset of the people, who now demands ‘Azadi’. He blamed Pakistan and its support to the terrorist factions as the reason for the disturbances in the valley. The General also mentioned that the Army wants peace in the valley which sadly cannot be attained without the use of the force today. He further added, “there isn’t a military solution to this issue. This is why we want politicians, political representatives to go into villages, especially in South Kashmir to talk to people. But they are scared that they will be attacked. It will happen once there is calm. And we are hopeful that people will soon realize that all this is futile and start thinking differently (sic)”.
General Rawat also clarified that terrorists and young recruits to the terrorist factions are not a problem for the Indian security forces to deal with, but then the stone pelters and civilian population which disrupts operations are a big challenge.
“Young people are getting excited by IS flags. Do you know what that means? Do you want to Talibanise Kashmir? Do you want Kashmir to turn into such a society? Do you want to live in such a society?” he asked. “These young people do not understand the meaning of it all. Somebody is inciting these young people”. General Rawat also said that he was worried about the decrease in earning opportunities of the Kashmiri youth owing to the disturbances in Kashmir. The earning capacity of the people has also been reduced due to tourists not coming to the valley.
General Bipin Rawat’s interview raises some important points related to the Kashmir issue in today’s time. Is the recent attack by the stone pelters on tourists and school children an effort to alienate Kashmir from the rest of India?
Pakistan’s involvement in the crisis can never be negated but has the Pakistan government resorted to using Kashmiri civilians for its dirty jobs. For all the accusations levied on Indian security forces for use of pellet guns on civilians, there are at least ten incidents where stone pelters have targeted the security forces. With this interview General Rawat has made it clear that the Indian Army is not going to stand down if provoked, the duty of maintaining peace in the valley, therefore lies on the Kashmiri people as well. A much needed clarification from General Rawat on behalf of the valiant Indian security forces is also a reminder for the Mehbooba Mufti government in Kashmir. Mufti’s soft approach towards the miscreants in the valley will not work anymore and the security forces are not going to take any more hits in order to save the civilians, who are in favor of the terrorists.