- The outgoing Army chief described Indian military as "extremely secular"
- General Rawat also said military personnel respect human rights laws
- He faced criticism for speaking on Citizenship Act violence on Thursday
A day after sparking a controversy by condemning "leaders who lead the masses in arson and violence" over the Citizenship Amendment Act, outgoing Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat today termed the Indian armed forces as an "extremely secular" entity driven by the principles of insaniyat (humanity) and sharafat (decency).
Addressing senior officers of the National Human Rights Commission on "Preserving human rights in times of war and prisoners of war" at the Manav Adhikar Bhawan in Delhi, General Rawat said Indian military personnel have the utmost respect for international human rights laws.
"We not only ensure the protection of the human rights of our own people but also that of our adversaries. We deal with prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Convention," news agency IANS quoted him as saying.
The Army chief said that unlike armed forces across the world, terror groups are not answerable to international law. "We have to counter-terrorism and anti-insurgency operations by identifying and alienating insurgents without causing collateral damage. This can be done only by winning the people's hearts, which becomes very challenging and difficult," he added.
General Rawat said that a human rights cell created by the army headquarters in 1993 was now being upgraded to the level of a directorate headed by an Additional Director General. "It will also have police personnel to address complaints of human rights violations against armed forces and facilitate related enquiries."
A court of inquiry is held after every anti-terror operation and relevant records are also maintained to ensure transparency, the Army chief said.
On Thursday, General Rawat had accused certain "leaders" of instigating protesters to indulge in violence amid protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, which expedites citizenship for non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan. "Leadership is all about leading. When you move forward, everybody follows...But leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing with a large number of students," he said.
Opposition politicians responded by accusing the Army chief - who is due to retire on December 31 - of interfering in a civilian matter. "Leadership also means knowing the limits of one's office. It is about understanding the idea of civilian supremacy and preserving the integrity of the institution you head," Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi said.
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh also targeted the Army chief, asking if he wouldn't agree that people who allow their followers to participate in the "genocide of communal violence" are not leaders either.
(With inputs from IANS)