Army chief Bipin Rawat steps in political waters by commenting on Kashmir's education system, faces backlash

Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat, while addressing an event in New Delhi in December, had said that the armed forces need to be kept out of politics.

"The military should be somehow kept out of politics. Of late, we have been seeing that politicisation of the military has been taking place. I think we operate in a very secular environment. We have a very vibrant democracy where the military should stay far away from the polity," he said.

In the "good old days", he had said, the norm was that women and politics were never discussed in the forces. However, these subjects were gradually "inching" their way into the discourse and this should be avoided, the army chief had added.

 Army chief Bipin Rawat steps in political waters by commenting on Kashmirs education system, faces backlash

File image of Bipin Rawat. PTI

"Whenever (any) issue (of) linking any military establishment or military personnel where political entity comes in then... that is best avoided," he said, adding that the defence forces do their best when they don't meddle in the political affairs of the nation.

At the time he said it, few could have disputed the argument Rawat had made. Nobody would argue for undue political interference in the armed forces.

But just a little over a month after saying this, he himself seems to be treading in political waters. Addressing the media last week, Rawat said schools in Jammu and Kashmir were spreading a "disinformation campaign" and called for a revamp of the education system in the state.

"The damage done to us is through the social media. A very large amount of disinformation campaign is being spread in Jammu and Kashmir which is radicalising the youths through the social media and through the schools," he said.

"The other issue is the madrassas and masjids — what is being informed to them (the students) or incorrectly informed to them is through the madrassas and masjids. I think some controls have to be exercised there and that is what we are looking at," he added.

Rawat suggested that some stone throwers in Kashmir were youth from government schools, and stressed on the need to reform the education system. "If you go to any Kashmir school, you will find two maps — one is the map of India and one is the map of Jammu and Kashmir. There are always two maps in every classroom. Why should there be a map of Jammu and Kashmir? If you are putting a map of Jammu and Kashmir, then you may as well put a map of every state," he said.

"What does it mean to children that I am part of the country but I also have a separate identity. So, the basic grassroots problem lies here is the way the education in Jammu and Kashmir in government school has been corrupted," said Rawat.

The statement quickly met with a furious backlash. The state government reacted sharply to Rawat's comments, saying it was "unacceptable" for an army chief to "meddle" in the state's affairs. Minister for education Syed Altaf Bukhari said the state's education system may have shortcomings, but there was no need for sermons about it from the army.

"I do not know what the army chief has said or how he said it, but what I know is that our children are not going towards radicalisation," minister for education Syed Altaf Bukhari told reporters. "Everyone has his own domain. Those who have no link to education are talking about it. It is not a fair comment and we do not accept it," Bukhari said.

"Those people who are not concerned with education tell us whether there should be one map or two maps in the schools. This is unacceptable," said Bukhari.

"This is a state subject. I do not think I will take any sermon from anybody. I have a boss, who is the chief minister (Mehbooba Mufti). If she finds any fault in the education system, we will do (address) it. She is the only one from whom we will take sermons," Bukhari said.

He further hit back at Rawat, saying it is probably the army that isn't doing its job properly. "Let him (army chief) do his own job, I am doing mine and if the borders are protected, the incidents of violence will come down... perhaps they are not doing their job properly because of which we are suffering," he said.

The minister said India is a democratic country and the army cannot have a control over everything. "Perhaps he (army chief) knows it and I know it very well," he said.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jan 15, 2018 13:42:28 IST