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Army chief: Valley not shut down

Army claims that the 'idea of life coming to a halt in Kashmir is a narrative being driven by separatists'

By Our Special Correspondent in New Delhi

  • Published 25.09.19, 4:44 AM
  • Updated 25.09.19, 8:24 AM
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard in downtown Srinagar on Friday
Paramilitary soldiers stand guard in downtown Srinagar on Friday (AP)

The army on Tuesday released aerial photos and a video captioned “loading of apples, work in progress in fields and people moving on with life” in Jammu and Kashmir to support the government’s all-is-well narrative although the information blockade and shutdown in the Valley entered the 51st day.

The army also claimed that the “idea of life coming to a halt in Kashmir is a narrative being driven by separatists”. All separatist leaders in the Valley are, however, either detained or behind bars.

The aerial photographs were released a day after army chief Bipin Rawat rejected claims of a clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir and asserted that it was a facade put up by terrorists to project a false picture of “harsh measures” to the outside world.

“The job of the Indian Army is to protect the country from external aggression and not to become a tool for the government’s propaganda. The army should concentrate on its job and let the political leadership do the talking,” said a former army officer, requesting anonymity.

The army, he said, was already working with the home and external affairs ministries to counter Pakistani propaganda on Kashmir.

“But it should refrain from becoming a propaganda tool for the government. Rather, it should draw a line and concentrate on its primary job,” the former officer said.

Speaking to reporters in Chennai on Monday, General Rawat had claimed there was no communication breakdown and said that communication lines were open for the people but that there was a breakdown for handlers of terrorists in Pakistan and their associates in the Valley.

“To say there is a clampdown, I don’t agree with this,” he had said while listing economic activities in the Valley — from the movement of apple-laden trucks to other parts of the country to operation of brick kilns and sand transportation on trucks after being mined from the Jhelum river.

The army chief had been criticised in the past for “loose talk”.

In February last year, Rawat had courted controversy for political remarks related to an alleged influx of people into Assam. In his speech at a seminar, the general had said: “There is a party called the AIUDF. If you look at it, they have grown in a faster time-frame than the BJP grew over the years.”

The comment was made in reference to the BJP winning just two seats in 1984.

Later the army had issued a statement defending its chief’s remarks, saying there was nothing political or religious in it, even as the Badruddin Ajmal-led AIUDF had criticised Rawat for making a political statement.

Last November, Rawat had said Pakistan should turn into a secular state from an Islamic nation.

“If they (Pakistan) have to stay together with India, then they have to develop as a secular state,” General Rawat had said.

The statement was seen by many as an instance of the army chief playing the religion card to appease the establishment in Delhi.