The Indian Army is facing a “dirty war” in Jammu and Kashmir which has to be fought through “innovative” ways, Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat has said, stoutly defending the use of a Kashmiri as a ‘human shield’ by a young officer.
In an exclusive interaction with PTI, Rawat said the main objective of awarding Major Leetul Gogoi, when a Court of Inquiry was finalising its probe into the incident, was to boost the morale of young officers of the force who are operating in a very difficult environment in the militancy-infested state.
“This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way. The rules of engagements are there when the adversary comes face-to-face and fights with you. It is a dirty war…. That is where innovation comes in. You fight a dirty war with innovations,” Rawat said.
The Army Chief’s Commendation medal to Gogoi, who had tied a man to an army jeep and used him as a human shield from stone throwers last month was criticised by human rights activists, Kashmiri groups and by a few retired army generals.
“People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us. If my men ask me what do we do, should I say, just wait and die? I will come with a nice coffin with a national flag and I will send your bodies home with honour. Is it what I am supposed to tell them as chief? I have to maintain the morale of my troops who are operating there,” Gen Rawat said.
Talking about the complexity of the security challenge in the state, he suggested it would have been easier for the armed forces if the protesters were firing weapons instead of throwing stones.
“In fact, I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do),” he said.
Gen Rawat said if people in any country lose fear of the army, then the country is doomed. “Adversaries must be afraid of you and at the same time your people must be afraid of you. We are a friendly army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us,” he said.
Gen Rawat said that as the Army chief, it was his duty to lift the morale of the army personnel in J&K and he did it by awarding Major Gogoi.
“As Army Chief my concern is morale of the Army. That is my job. I am far away from the battle field. I cannot influence the situation there. I can only tell the boys that I am with you. I always tell my people, things will go wrong, but if things have gone wrong and you did not have malafide intent, I am there,” he said.
On Kashmir solution, Rawat said, “It will have to be a composite solution. Everybody will have to get involved. Army’s role is to ensure that violence does not take place and the common man who is not indulging in this (violence) is protected,” he said.