NEW DELHI: India’s army chief Gen Bipin Rawat has warned of tough action against restive Kashmiri civilians but opposition parties have slammed the remarks as counterproductive, reports said on Friday.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh said that the general’s statement was misinterpreted.

Asking opposition parties not to politicise the remarks, he said: “We appeal to political sections and Congress not to indulge in any kind of politicking at cost of security forces’ morale.”

Gen Rawat on Thursday warned that those who were creating “hurdles” during security operations in the valley would face “tough action”, the Indian Express said.

It said the remarks had brought strong reactions from both mainstream as well as Kashmir’s parties. While National Conference slamm­ed the army chief’s remarks, the ruling PDP in the India-held region voiced support for Gen Rawat.

NC spokesman Junaid Azim Mattu was quoted as saying the need of the hour was to engage the youth politically, adding that threatening them would push them farther away. Senior PDP leader and Education Minister Nayeem Akhtar, on the other hand, said: “It is good to advise people on safety. Even combatants, whether they are militants or security forces, take shelter — militants take shelter in some house and security forces in bunkers. What wisdom is there in running towards an encounter site?”

Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq also criticised Gen Rawat’s statements saying there was a need to ask why the military was being used to crush a mass political movement.

The general’s comments came a day after three soldiers faced heavy stone-pelting in Bandipore in north Kashmir when they were about to launch an operation against suspected militants.

The Express said that the melee alerted alleged militants who got an opportunity to fire grenades and empty a few magazines from AK-rifles into the advancing troopers, leaving three jawans dead and some others, including a commanding officer of CRPF, injured.

One gunman managed to flee the area, the report said.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2017

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