NEW DELHI: Defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday backed Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement that stern action will be taken against stone-pelting civilians who try to interfere in anti-terror operations in J & K.
While holding that battalion commanders on the ground have been given “a free hand” in conducting counterinsurgency operations and dealing with such situations, Parrikar also took pains to stress the Army does not treat every Kashmiri on the street as a terror sympathiser.
Amid the ongoing political mudslinging over Gen Rawat’s warning to stone-pelters that they will be treated as “over-ground workers of terrorists” and dealt with harshly , critics say such talk by the Army chief will only further alienate the youth and fuel militancy in Kashmir.
But the government says General Rawat had referred specifically to the stone-pelters who actively abet terrorists, and not the youth in general in the strife-torn state. The Army , in turn, says at least 25 terrorists have managed to escape the security dragnet during a dozen anti terror operations over the last one year due to direct interference from stone-pelting mobs.” They include the encounters at Frisal and Hajan on February 12 and 14, in which though five terrorists were killed, four managed to escape,” said a senior officer.
With an estimated 250-300 terrorists already present in J&K, a joint security review of the operational situation was conducted by top officials of the Army , CRPF , J&K police and others at Srinagar on Thursday . ” A joint control room will now be set up in the vicinity of every encounter site. The administration concerned will also enforce restrictions on the movement of civilians,” said a source.