New Delhi, Apr 23: Protests in Handwara were "genuine expression of anger" towards the army and cannot be "rigged" on this scale as they mushroomed because of the way they were handled by the state government, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said.
He downplayed apprehensions of a new wave of militancy hitting South Kashmir but cautioned that the government need to remain watchful.
"I don't think you can rig the protest on this scale and not to the point that people are willing to lay down their lives because of their sentiments or their feeling," Omar said in an interview to Karan Thapar on India Today TV.
He said large number of people came out and their anger was diverted towards the army because of the alleged incident of molestation.
"Now there are two views on the incident. The fact is what you saw was a genuine expression of anger and outrage which mushroomed because of the way it was initially handled," he said.
When asked how he sees such protests in South Kashmir, Omar said in recent years, it (South Kashmir) had been calm with relatively less militancy in the area.
"Whatever militancy we had seen has been close to Line of Control. Towns of Handwara, Kupwara have largely been calm. Their participation in elections... has been much healthier...
There is this resentment at the excessive presence of the army in the middle of these towns particularly a couple of bunkers that dot the two towns of Handwara and Kupwara but people were ready to take them into stride. In this case the incident of alleged molestation that was the spark that lit the fire," he said.