Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today said children in Jammu and Kashmir are "nationalists" and those "motivating them in wrong direction are the culprits". His remarks come days after Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat said children were being radicalized in Kashmir and it was a matter of concern.
"The children of Jammu Kashmir are nationalists. They shouldn't be seen in any other way," Mr Singh said during his visit to the National Cadet Corps Republic Day Camp in Delhi. He was replying to a question on children in Jammu and Kashmir being motivated to join the NCC.
"Youngsters are youngsters only. Sometimes, the way they should be motivated, people do not motivate them. In fact, they are motivated in the wrong direction," the 68-year-old leader was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
"That is why children should not be blamed for this. The ones who are motivating them in the wrong direction are the culprits," the defence minister added.
Last week, at a panel discussion at the Raisina Dialogue 2020 in New Delhi, General Rawat had said that children as young as 10 or 12 years old were being radicalised in Kashmir and it was worrying.
"These people can still be isolated from radicalisation in a gradual way. But there are people who have completely been radicalised," he said.
"These people need to be taken out separately, possibly taken into to some de-radicalisation camps. We have deradicalisation camps going on in our country. Let me tell you, Pakistan is doing the same. They have understood. Some of the terrorism they are sponsoring is hitting back at them," he added.
General Rawat's comment was backed by Union Minister G Kishan Reddy who said that the Army has been running de-radicalisation camps for ages.
Jammu and Kashmir has been under severe restrictions since the centre scrapped its special status last year in August and divided it in two union territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.