LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MPA Shoaib Siddiqui on Friday tabled a resolution in the Punjab Assembly condemning a statement by the Indian army chief in which the military official described the struggle for freedom in India-Held Kashmir (IHK) as “futile”.
The resolution pointed out that the Indian general’s statement was an admission that the Kashmiri people are not terrorists but ordinary people who are fighting for freedom. The resolution urged Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member states and other international organisations to intervene in the matter and ensure that the Kashmir conflict is solved in accordance with the United Nations’s resolution. In an interview to The Indian Express on Thursday, Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat warned Kashmiri youth that “azadi (freedom) is not possible”. “It won’t happen,” he told the publication. “Don’t get carried away unnecessarily. Why are you picking up weapons? We will always fight those who seek azadi, those who want to secede. (Freedom) is not going to happen, never.” General Rawat claimed that the number of ‘militants’ killed in the encounters didn’t “matter to him because […] this cycle will continue”. The general said that he did not “enjoy” killing innocent people but if Kashmiris wanted to “fight” the Indian army, the latter would “fight back with all [its] force”. He added that the Indian security forces have not been “so brutal” to the Kashmiris. “Look at Syria and Pakistan,” he insisted. “They use tanks and air power in similar situations.”
He then admitted that the Kashmiri people have grievances but warned that “throwing stones at the forces isn’t the way”. The Indian general expressed surprise that the Burhan Wani encounter incited so much “anger” in the people of Kashmir. “(The Burhan Wani encounter) wasn’t the first such encounter in Kashmir,’’ he said. “I am still trying to understand where did all that anger come from. The youth have gotten themselves in Pakistan’s trap. They are being consistently incited to attack us.”
India-held Kashmir has seen an explosion of protests against Indian rule since government forces shot and killed Burhan Wani in 2016. The death of the charismatic 23-year-old, who had built up a big following on social media, sparked an outpouring of grief and anger that spilled into the streets and led to months of clashes with security forces. “We had to tell people that azadi isn’t happening,” Rawat insisted. “We had to establish the writ [of the state].”
He admitted that a military solution to the Kashmir issue was not possible and the army wanted politicians to visit the area and “talk to people”. “But [the politicians] are scared that they will be attacked,’’ he said. He also regretted that tourism in the area had been affected due to the Kashmiri struggle.
Separatists have been fighting since 1989 against the roughly half a million Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or a merger of the entire disputed region with Pakistan. Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.