People interfering with anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir will be considered anti-nationals and will face action, army chief Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday, acknowledging adding that the hostile conduct of locals was causing higher casualties in the Valley.
General Rawat’s message came a day after three soldiers faced heavy stone-pelting at Parray Mohalla of Bandipore in northern Kashmir when they were about to launch an operation against militants holed up there.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rawat paid their last respects to three of four soldiers, including a major, who were killed in two separate encounters in Kashmir on Tuesday.
“If they become a problem in our operation and if that causes losses to our soldiers, we will not hesitate to use weapons,” Rawat said in no uncertain terms.
Alerted by stone-pelters, militants got an opportunity to lob hand grenades and empty a few magazines from rifles into advancing troopers, leaving three soldiers dead and some others, including a commanding officer of the CRPF, injured.
General Rawat said security forces in Jammu and Kashmir were facing higher casualties due to the manner in which locals were preventing them from conducting the operations and “at times even supporting the terrorists to escape”.
“We would now request the local population that people who have picked up arms, and they are the local boys, if they want to continue with these acts of terrorism, displaying flags of ISIS (Islamic State) and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go helter-skelter for them,” he told reporters in New Delhi.
“They may survive today but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue,” the army chief added.
General Rawat said those supporting terror activities were being given an opportunity, but only for so long.
“...Should they continue to (disrupt army operations) then, we will continue with relentless operations may be with harsher measures. And that is the way to continue.”