Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Sunday defended the use of a Kashmiri man as a human shield by Major Leetul Gogoi, saying the army must find “innovative ways” to tackle the “dirty war” in Jammu and Kashmir. Rawat said the main objective behind giving Gogoi a commendation medal, a move that was widely criticised, was to motivate the officers tackling the difficult conditions in a troubled state.

“This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war, it is played in a dirty way,” Rawat said. “The rules of engagements are there when the adversary comes face-to-face and fights with you. You fight a dirty war with innovations. As Army chief, my concern is morale of the Army. That is my job.”

He also said the situation in valley would have been easier to tackle for his men if the protesters were firing weapons at them instead of throwing stones. “I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I [want to do],” he was quoted as saying by PTI. However, it was not fully clear what he meant by this.

The Indian Army had tied a man, Farooq Dar, to a jeep and used him as a human shield from people protesting outside a polling booth in March, during the Srinagar bye-polls. A video of the incident was shared on social media and caused a furore in the country. The move drew widespread criticism from human rights activists, Kashmiri Groups, among others.

However, Rawat said, “People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us. If my men ask me what do we do, should I say, just wait and die? I will come with a nice coffin with a national flag and I will send your bodies home with honour. Is it what I am supposed to tell them as chief? I have to maintain the morale of my troops who are operating there.”