J&K: Azadi will never happen, says Army chief to Kashmir youth; highlights

File photo of Army Chief Bipin Rawat | Photo: PTI
Days after a 22-year-old tourist from Tamil Nadu died after being hit by a stone, during a protest, in Jammu and Kashmir, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said he was concerned over Kashmiri youths 'picking up guns' or resorting to stone pelting.

In an interview to the Indian Express, Rawat said youth of Kashmir should understand that 'Azaadi' is not possible. “I want to tell Kashmiri youth that Azadi isn’t possible. It won’t happen. 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. (Azadi) is not going to happen, never”.

Recently, several districts in Jammu and Kashmir was rocked by protests after security forces killed five terrorists, including an assistant professor of Kashmir University, in an encounter in south Kashmir's Shopian district on Sunday.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday chaired an all-party meet to discuss the situation in Kashmir. After the meeting, Mufti said the central government would be approached with a request to halt security force operations during the forthcoming holy Muslim month of Ramadan and the ensuing Amarnath Yatra.

General Bipin Rawat's interview and other top developments on Jammu and Kashmir crisis:

1. Bipin Rawat vows to fight back the stone pelters: “Once a stone is thrown at us…once they fire at us.. then there is no way we will not respond and respond sternly. Those who want to fight us, we will fight them," Rawat told the Indian Express.

Stressing that there is no 'military solution' to the Kashmir unrest, he said politicians, political representatives should " go into villages especially in South Kashmir to talk to people".

Rawat said the Army doesn't enjoy killing, but if anyone wants to “fight us then we will fight you with all our force”. “Kashmiris have to understand that the SFs (security forces) haven’t been so brutal — look at Syria and Pakistan. They use tanks and air power in similar situations. Our troops have been trying their level best to avoid any civilian casualty despite huge provocation,’’ he said.

2. Numbers don't matter, says Rawat: Rawat said he doesn't attach much importance to the number of militants who are killed in encounters with the Army. “These numbers don’t matter to me because I know this cycle will continue. There are fresh recruitments happening. I only want to stress that all this is futile, nothing is going to be achieved by them. You can’t fight the Army”.

3. Centre should consider ceasefire in J-K from Ramzan, says Mufti: The Centre should consider a unilateral ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir starting from Ramzan in mid-May till the completion of the Amarnath yatra in August, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said on Wednesday.

She made the remarks after chairing a four-hour all-party meeting, which was convened to discuss the present situation in the Kashmir Valley especially after a tourist from Chennai died due to stone pelting on May 7.

Mufti appealed to all shades of opinion in joining in the mission to get the state out of violence and bloodshed.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, she said, "Everyone (all parties) agreed that we should appeal to the Centre to consider a ceasefire like the unilateral ceasefire in (former PM Atal Bihari) Vajpayee's time in Ramzan (later this month) till Amarnath yatra and Eid."

She said a ceasefire would provide relief to the people and help create a better atmosphere in the state.

4. Parties, separatist groups, business body condemn death of tourist in Kashmir: Leaders across the Jammu and Kashmir spectrum, including political parties and separatist groups, today condemned the death of a Chennai-based tourist who was hit by stone pelters, with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stressing that those who picked up stones with the intent to kill had no religion.

Opposition leader Omar Abdullah lashed out at the PDP-BJP alliance and accused it of having failed to improve the security situation in the state, while the chief minister called the incident a "murder of humanity".

The angry reaction from the political parties and separatists groups came after the 22-year-old tourist, R Thirumani, died of head injuries following a stone pelting incident at Narbal on the outskirts of Srinagar city.

5. Separatists call off strike in Kashmir: Separatists on Tuesday called off their three-day strike and asked the people of Kashmir to resume normal activities from Wednesday.
The Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), however, asked people to hoist black flags to protest against the alleged civilian killings in the Valley by security forces.

"The JRL has asked the people to resume normal activities from tomorrow (Wednesday) but at the same time people from all walks of life should hoist black flags and display black arm bands to show their commitment to the movement," a spokesman of the separatist amalgam said in a statement.

6. Condition in Kashmir deteriorated in three years, says Omar: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Tuesday said the condition in Kashmir Valley has deteriorated in last three years.

He made this remark while commenting on a tourist's death due to stone pelting in his assembly constituency.

"We are proud of our hospitality and we talk about it to the world. But, what happened is nothing but sad and shameful. Unfortunately, in last three years, the condition in Kashmir Valley has deteriorated," Abdullah told ANI.

Soon after his death, Abdullah had tweeted: "This young man from Chennai died in my constituency & while I don't support these goons, their methods or their ideology I'm deeply, deeply sorry that this happened at all & that too in an area I've been proud to represent since 2014."

In another tweet, he said, "The J&K Govt has failed, the CM has failed, the BJP-PDP alliance has failed. How much blood will have to be shed in Kashmir before the Hon PM realises the gravity of the situation in J&K? When will enough finally be enough?"

The J&K Govt has failed, the CM has failed, the BJP-PDP alliance has failed. How much blood will have to be shed in Kashmir before the Hon PM realises the gravity of the situation in J&K? When will enough finally be enough?

— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) 7 May 2018

7. CM Mehbooba Mufti meets Governor: Mehbooba Mufti called on Governor N N Vohra on Tuesday and discussed with him the situation in the state, particularly counter-terrorism operations and stone-pelting incidents, including one in which a tourist from Chennai was killed.

"During the course of their hour-and-half long meeting, the governor and chief minister discussed various important matters relating to counter-terrorist operations; continuing incidents of stone pelting; the death of a tourist and other concerns," an official spokesman said after the meeting.

He said Mehbooba and Vohra also discussed the growing radicalisation.

8. Youth's death could be last nail in Kashmir's tourism coffin: The fragile tourism industry in Kashmir has taken another blow with the death of a tourist hit by stones, and the sector fears that the incident may further affect the already falling footfall in the troubled Valley.

The killing of the Chennai youth could be the proverbial final nail in the coffin of tourism in Kashmir, Ashfaq Siddiq, president Travel Agents Association Kashmir (TAAK), said on Wednesday.

This is a sad incident which should not have happened. Unfortunately, we feel that it will have an impact on tourist arrivals to Kashmir. I think it will be the final nail in the coffin, Siddiq told PTI.

Tourism in the state has already suffered because of prolonged periods of unrest in the Valley, hoteliers said.

9. Mehbooba calls all-party meeting to discuss situation in Kashmir: Mehbooba Mufti has called an all party meeting of the political parties to discuss the situation in the Kashmir valley.

"Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti is convening an all party meeting in Srinagar tomorrow to discuss the prevailing situation with political parties across the board", an official spokesperson said.

The meeting is scheduled to be held at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) at 2 pm tomorrow (Wednesday), he said.

10. Tourist from Chennai killed in stone pelting: A 22-year-old tourist from Tamil Nadu died in Srinagar on Monday evening when a mob went on the rampage near Narbal on the outskirts of the city, police said.

Thirumani and his family were returning from Gulmarg, about 50 km from summer capital Srinagar, when their vehicle was caught in stone pelting near Magam area of Budgam. A stone hit the young man on his right temple and he was rushed to the Soura Institute of Medical Sciences where he died.

The tourist was taken to the SKIMS hospital at Soura, where he succumbed to injuries, the official added.

A case was registered and investigations have been taken up in the matter, the official said.

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