Former Indian Army chief and Union minister VK Singh on Friday defended current Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat after he was criticised for making remarks about the ongoing protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, ANI reported. Opposition parties admonished Rawat on Thursday, and asked him to stay within the limits of his office.

Commenting on the violence during the protests, Rawat said at an event in Delhi: “As we are witnessing in large number of universities and colleges, students the way they are leading masses and crowds to carry out arson and violence in cities and towns. This is not leadership.” He added that true leaders lead people in the right direction.

Following this, Opposition leaders told Singh not to make remarks on civilian matters. “Army chief Bipin Rawat speaking against CAA protests is wholly against constitutional democracy,” said Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa. “If Army chief is allowed to speak on political issues today, it also permits him to attempt an Army takeover tomorrow!!”

VK Singh told the Opposition not to politicise everything. “In our great country, the Opposition can turn anything into a controversy,” said the minister. “Ideal would have been to see the statement in the context in which Army chief has said a particular thing.”

Singh said the Opposition should have instead asked Rawat to explain what he meant. The former Army chief claimed Rawat’s comments were not political in nature. “If he had given advice to students to not indulge in arson, it’s not a bad thing,” Singh added. “I don’t know what is so wrong in it. If I play football, the Opposition will say it is politics.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by Parliament on December 11, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered India by December 31, 2014. It has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims.

At least 25 people have been killed in nationwide protests in the past two weeks, with 18 dying in Uttar Pradesh itself. Most of them died from firearm injuries. A report on Wednesday said the police detained at least five minors at the Bijnor Police Cantonment last week, and tortured them over 48 hours.