Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat
In picture: Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat (right) at the Aero India show in Bengaluru.Facebook/ADGPI - Indian Army

Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat said on Wednesday that stone-pelters disrupting anti-terror operations would be treated as "overground workers of terrorists," and that those waving flags of the Islamic State group or Pakistan would be treated as anti-nationals, and would be dealt with accordingly. This tough posturing by the Army chief has given rise to apprehensions that such actions could result in the return of protests and unrest in the Valley.

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General Rawat took a really strong stand on Wednesday when he put stone-pelters and others who disrupted Indian Army operations in the same bracket as terrorists. His stance could be justified by the number of casualties the Army had sustained as a result of the rebuffing terrorist attacks and neutralising infiltrators from the Pakistani side.

The possible infinite loop

However, the chances are high that anyone other than terrorists or infiltrators being killed could flare up tensions in the Valley, and separatist elements would spare no time in pouncing on such an opportunity to highlight the "atrocities" of the Indian Army, much like they did after the death of Burhan Wani.

Once that happens, it could be only a matter of time before many impressionable people can be influenced to take to the streets and protest against the Indian Army. Such protests often take violent turns, and could result in the Army or the other security forces trying to enforce law and order coming under attack. That would again lead to the armed forces taking appropriate action.

If such action leads to more casualties, the separatists and extremists will have more ammunition — the metaphorical kind — on their hands to foment unrest in the region, which could lead to even more protests, more violence, and more action by the armed forces, locking the situation in an infinite loop of increasing tension and unrest in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Army would do well to avoid such a situation. How it manages to do so is a question only time can answer at the moment.