Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat slammed anti-Citizenship Law protesters during a programme in New Delhi on Thursday. Thousands had come out on the streets in several parts of India to oppose a new law that grants citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants from three neighbouring Islamic countries.

During protests against the controversial law, there were large-scale incidents of violence, arson and clashes with security forces, resulting in the death of over 20 people, with the highest casualty count reported from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

India Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has joined the chorus against the ongoing protests and said, those taking to the streets were not displaying leadership qualities.

“Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions. As we are witnessing at a 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,” said General Rawat in New Delhi on Thursday.

​Addressing a programme, the army chief paid reverence to soldiers braving extreme climatic conditions in high altitude posts where the temperatures range from -10 to -45 degrees Celsius.

However, Rawat’s comment on the law barring Muslims from three neighbouring Islamic nations did not go well with the public and instead invited their ire which they aired on Twitter.

​General Rawat is considered to be a serious contender for the post of Chief of Defence Staff, a position New Delhi formally announced the creation of on Monday 23 December.

Rawat is set to retire from his post of army chief later this month. One of the most vocal army chiefs in recent years, Rawat was instrumental in undertaking some major reforms in the army, including adopting more automation in the service.