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Minister slams Congress, NC for criticising army chief’s remark

IANS | New Delhi |

Minister of State in the PMO Jitendra Singh on Friday accused the Congress and the National Conference of behaving like separatists for criticising Army Chief General Bipin Rawat's warning to protesters who try to rescue militants from shootout sites in Kashmir.

"The same political party, for example like the National Conference, is talking like this which as a part of the UPA was the one which even went to the extent of demanding bombardment of the terror camps in Pakistan," Jitendra Singh told the media.

The army chief's statement on counter-terror operations has led to a political furore in the Kashmir Valley. 

General Rawat had issued a warning to Kashmir stone-pelters for interfering during anti-militancy operations saying that they will be treated as anti-nationals. A dangerous trend has emerged in the valley where youth carrying Islamist flags and stones flock to shootout sites during gun fights to help militants flee.

"We would request the local population… local boys if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism, displaying flags of the IS (Islamic State) and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them… If they do not relent and create hurdles, then we will take tough action," the chief said.

The opposition National Conference in Kashmir expressed dismay over the "belligerent remarks" of the army chief that it said would "increase the hostility in the valley".

"Youth rushing towards encounter sites and incidents of stone-pelting on the forces during encounters are worrying and alarming signs of the sense of alienation and disenchantment in Kashmir," the National Conference said in a statement.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was on Friday reported by a section of the media as saying that the government was to blame for the worsening situation in the state. 

He said threatening Kashmiri youth was "unjustified" and could be the central government's policy and "not the army's".

Jitendra Singh said the Congress statement was unfortunate and similar to that of Kashmiri separatists who have slammed the army chief's threat to stone-pelters in Kashmir.

"When they (the Congress and the National Conference) are in power, they swear by India and Kashmir as an integral part of India. The moment they are shunted out of power, they overnight become wiser and question the role of the army in Jammu and Kashmir," the Minister said.

"The Congress is also falling for the same separatist and semi-separatist jargon for short term electoral gains."