Centre appeals to Congress to keep Army and Army Chief out of politics

New Delhi [India], Feb. 17 (ANI): In the wake of the political slugfest that has broken out over Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat's warning that those Kashmiris supporting terrorists would be considered anti-national, the Centre has reiterated its appeal to the Congress to not drag the Indian Army into politics.

"It's my appeal to the Congress to keep the Army and the Army Chief outside of politics. Our soldiers are dying and terrorists are infiltrating from Pakistan and it is unbecoming that such things are being said. The sooner the Congress realizes it is not in power anymore, the better for the nation," Union Minister for Law and Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad told ANI here in response to the Congress' charges that General Rawat's statement could induce more hostility in the Valley.

Earlier, Congress chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma had stated that Kashmir is very sensitive and delicate issue and government should deal it with great care.

"Youth in Kashmir should also understand that security forces are there for safety of common people and they should not try to create hurdles during counter insurgency operations," he said.

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad criticized 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."

NC spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu also dubbed Rawat's statements as "tragic" and warned that such moves will only alienate the youth of Kashmir and "compound their hostility".

In December last year, the Congress had come down heavily over the Centre over the new Army Chief's appointment by superseding two officers.

Customarily, the senior most army officer is accorded the position but in this case, as the Congress party claimed, Lt Gen Rawat superseded three senior officers in his appointment as the next Chief of Army Staff.

Upset with the killings of jawans in a recent encounter with terrorists in the Valley, General Rawat on Wednesday lashed out at those obstructing Army's combing operations.

"Those who obstruct our operations during encounters and are not supportive will be treated as overground workers of terrorists," said Rawat after paying tribute to security personnel who lost their lives in encounters with terrorists in Kashmir on Tuesday.

Urging the local people to extend their support to the security forces trying to maintain peace in the Valley, Rawat said they won't be spared if they continue resorting to negative acts.

"Our idea is not kill these young boys, but to bring them into mainstream. But, if they wish to remain in this manner, we will target them with harsher measures," he warned.

General Rawat expressed his disappointment about the involvement of local people in terrorist acts, whether directly or indirectly.

He said such actions are the reason for the high number of casualties among security forces.

Four army personnel, including a major lost their lives in two encounters in the Bandipora and Handwara areas of North Kashmir on Tuesday. (ANI)