New Delhi: The tragic death of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash in the Coonoor area of Tamil Nadu is a big loss for people of Kashmir. They have lost a well wisher who wanted to pull denizens of Jammu and Kashmir out of the quagmire of uncertainty and Pakistan sponsored terrorism.
The “People’s General” shared a very strong bond with Kashmiris as he had observed their sufferings closely. His death has created a void and people of Kashmir are in a shock. They have lost their friend, who spoke his heart out whenever he addressed them.
The former Army Chief, who served in North Kashmir thrice during crucial times, always asked the people to fight the Pakistan sponsored onslaught with will and determination. He served as a company commander in the Uri sector in Baramulla district first and then as the Army’s 5 Sector’s sector commander in Watlab, Sopore, and as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 19 Infantry Division (Dagger division).
As on date North Kashmir, where late General Rawat was posted, is almost militancy free as people have foiled the nefarious designs of the militants and their handlers. They are living in peace. They followed what their General taught them and today they are enjoying the dividends of peace.
During his different tenures in Kashmir, General Rawat had developed a strong bond with the people as he always used to remain accessible. Even after being elevated to the posts of Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff, General Rawat, remained in touch with the people of Kashmir. He used to answer their phone calls and direct his officers posted in the Valley to address their concerns.
His people friendly approach led to many officers following in his footsteps. He set an example about how to win the hearts and minds of the people. He taught his subordinates how to befriend a common man and be there for him whenever the need arises.
Kashmir has not forgotten the people friendly policies of General Rawat, it was evident on December 10, 2021 when a few Imams in frontier Kupwara district offered Fatheh for him, his wife and other Army officers who died in the copter crash. Fatheh are exclusive prayers offered by Muslims for the dead. It was perhaps for the first time that Imams of mosques offered the special prayers for a non-Muslim that too from the pulpit of the mosque.
The Imams offering Fatheh for a non-Muslim should serve as an eye opener for the hate mongers who preach radicalization and tell the militants that killing non-Muslims is no sin. Kashmiris by offering Fatheh, taking out candle light marches and attending the mourning ceremonies have driven home a point that they respected General Rawat from the core of their hearts and his tragic and sudden demise is a big loss for them.
General Rawat was a trend setter. As a Vice-Chief of Army he emphasized on the need to make Pakistan understand that it cannot get away with everything. When 19 soldiers were killed in a terror attack in Uri sector in 2016, General Rawat as the Vice-Chief of the Army played an important role in devising a strategy to launch a counter attack to teach Pakistan a lesson. In September 2016, Indian Army carried out surgical strikes across the Line of Control in retaliation against the Uri terror strike. General Rawat was part of the planning and closely monitored the strike in Delhi. Three months later, he took over as the Army Chief.
Uri surgical strikes were the beginning of a new way to tackle terror as it was for the first time since 1990 that Indian armed forces crossed the LoC and destroyed the terrorist camps and launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
He was Army Chief when India carried out airstrikes targeting a JeM terror training centre in Pakistan’s Balakot in February 2019, days after over 40 paramilitary CRPF men were killed in a terror attack in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. The surgical strikes and Balakot air strikes proved to be a turning point in India’s fight against terror. After these strikes Pakistan has not been able to carry out any major attack in Jammu and Kashmir. These actions instilled confidence among the people of J&K that defeating terrorists and terrorism is not a big deal.
General Rawat advocating “tit for tat” policy made Pakistan understand that if it indulges in any more “misadventures” it may have to pay a heavy price as Indian armed forces could cross over and hit it even harder.
“The surgical strikes post-Uri terror attack and the Balakot airstrikes have delivered a strong message to Pakistan that it no longer enjoys the impunity of pushing terrorists across the Line of Control under the nuclear bogey,” General Rawat had said last year.
Straight forward, upright General
General Rawat was a very straightforward and upright man. He never minced any words to call spade a spade. As an Army Chief he had made it clear to Pakistan that if it dares to send infiltrators into J&K it will have to take back the bodies. He ensured that soldiers deployed along the Line of Control and borders are equipped with the best possible weapons to kill the infiltrators as soon as they are spotted. His aggressive tactics helped in bringing down the infiltration to its lowest ebb.
As on date a robust anti-infiltration grid is in place along the LoC as most of the infiltration points have been blocked. Terrorists no more find it easy to walk into J&K after crossing the LoC.
General Rawat had firm belief that anything, including radicalization, could be countered. He wanted to address the root-cause of all the problems. In 2017, when stone pelting orchestrated by Pakistan sponsored radical elements at the encounter sites had become a routine in Kashmir, General Rawat issued a stern warning to stone pelters, following which the situation improved in the Valley.
In 2018, General Rawat warned youths against picking up guns, saying” “Azadi will not happen, you cannot fight the army.”
He always reiterated that the adversary was using Kashmiri youth as cannon fodder. He wanted troops to try their level best to avoid any civilian casualty and collateral damage.
Besides being a “People’s General”, CDS General Rawat was a true statesman and a born leader. People of Kashmir can never forget his contribution towards restoring peace in the Valley. He was soft with the innocent people but tough with the terrorists and their supporters. General Rawat wanted end of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and prosperity of people. Kashmiris by coming out to mourn his death have shown it to the world that they value their well wishers and true friends.