New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday came out in support of Army Chief Bipin Rawat whose comments that those obstructing anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir will face tough action, triggered a political slugfest.
Parrikar said those creating hurdles for security forces in Jammu and Kashmir are trying to protect the terrorists and that the government has given free hand to army to carry out anti-terror operations.
At the same time, the Defence Minister said government does not consider that "everyone is on the other side" and the officer leading the raids or operations will have to take a call based on the ground situation.
"Those who obstruct the operations are trying to protect the terrorists and his (General Rawat's) comment is based on that. In these matters, the decision to act will be the commanding (officer) or the officer who is on the spot. It cannot be generalised," Parrikar told India Today TV.
He said the government has given total free hand to army to carry out anti-terror operations where local police and CRPF are also involved.
Asked whether he was worried that Rawat's comments may lead to alienation of the people in the Kashmir Valley, Parrikar said he told the Army Chief to bring the youths who are on "wrong track" back to the mainstream.
"We do not consider that everyone is on the other side. But in that particular situation, if there is obstruction, the officer who is heading the raid or operation has to take a call," he said.
Acknowledging that the hostile conduct of locals was causing higher casualties in the Kashmir valley, Rawat on Wednesday had warned those attacking security forces during anti-militancy operations of "tough action".
In a stern warning, Rawat had said people indulging in stone throwing, people indulging in supporting the terrorists and helping them escape will be treated like over ground workers of the terrorists and will be dealt with accordingly.
The Army chief's warning had come after four soldiers, including a Major, were killed in two separate encounters in Kashmir.
In criticism of the Army chief's remarks, Congress said restraint should be adopted by security forces while dealing with people in the state.
The BJP accused the Congress of speaking in the voice of separatists and politicising the Army for "lowly political gains" while defending Rawat's statement on tough action against locals hampering counter-militancy operations in Kashmir.
Rawat had also said people creating hurdles during anti-terror operations and displaying flags of Pakistan and ISIS in Jammu and Kashmir will be dealt as anti-nationals and will face "harsh" actions.
The Army Chief had said security forces in Jammu and Kashmir were facing higher casualties due to the manner in which the local population was preventing them from conducting the operations and "at times even supporting the terrorists to escape".
Asked why infiltrations as well as terror attacks are taking place in Kashmir despite the surgical strike, Parrikar said the LoC was "quite silent" and specific operations are carried out based on intelligence inputs.
Without giving details, he said many operations take place and that one of the operations did not went off as planned, adding terrorists holed up in villages are often neutralised.