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Lt General Panag told NDTV that criticism cannot be seen as anti-national.

New Delhi:  When the former General Officer Commanding of Northern Command Lt General HS Panag was called an anti-national recently for criticising the alleged use of a Kashmiri weaver as a “human shield” from stone pelting, he had a unique way of dealing with the abuse. Faced with over 2,000-odd tweets threatening to beat him, or questioning his knowledge of Kashmir despite having served there for 40 years, General Panag decided to answer each one. “It was a thought out tweet and response from me but I didn’t expect to be in the news.”

He didn’t just hit the headlines as being one of the few army officers who questioned their role, he made international news. “I used to have 40,000 followers, now I have 44,000,” he jokes.

When asked how he deals with the abuse he faced and if he didn’t feel traumatised, he said, “Well, I made it to New York Times, and other renowned publications with my views so who won in the end?”

But levity aside, Lt General Panag told NDTV that criticism cannot be seen as anti-national. Making a distinction between hyper-nationalism and being a patriot, he said that in order to grow from strength to strength, the army needed criticism, needed to be questioned.

“This image will end up being the defining image of the Indian Army, just like the Napalm girl was for the Vietnam war,” said Lt Gen Panag, referring to the image of the naked child running away from Napalm bombing.

A believer in the goodness of the force, he said, “I can safely say that the army has never used a human shield before this.”

On April 9, the army had tied a man to a jeep allegedly as a “human shield” against protesters who took on security forces in the Valley over by-elections for the Srinagar parliamentary constituency. The video of the incident had gone viral.

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