The Indian Army in response to FIRs registered against two of its soldiers, has said that the duo opened fire in a ‘desperate situation’. On Saturday, The PDP-BJP coalition government in J&K showed cracks when Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti snubbed her alliance partner and vowed to take the investigation into the killing of two youths in the Army’s firing to its logical conclusion.
Two youths, Javiad Ahmad Bhat and Suhail Javaid Lone, were killed when troops fired at a stone-pelting mob on Saturday. Seven Army men, including a Junior Commissioned Officer, were injured in the stone-pelting on their convoy.
According to an NDTV report, of the soldiers, a JCO (senior jawan) tried reasoning with the crowd. “A brick or heavy stone was hit at one of the JCO. He sustained head injuries and fell unconscious. The crowd came within 7 metres of the soldiers. They tried to snatch the unconscious JCO. Some of them may have said, burn the soldier. The soldiers are trained to shoot to kill,” the sources told the channel.
The Army major, who was mentioned in the FIR over death of two civilians in the firing incident in Jammu and Kashmir’s Shopian district, was not present at the spot of the incident, Army sources claimed on Tuesday.
The Army has launched an investigation into the incident, they added.
“The major was not present at the site of the incident. He was around 200 metres away from it… He was in the vicinity of the spot,” a source said.
On Sunday, the police registered the FIR under sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) against the personnel of 10, Garhwal unit, of the Army. The Major, who led the Army personnel at the time of the incident, was also mentioned in the FIR.
J-K Police chief S P Vaid said yesterday that registration of the FIR in the Shopian incident is just the beginning of the investigation and the Army’s version would be taken into account as well.
A defence spokesman on Sunday had said in Srinagar that the troops opened fire when a mob tried to lynch a junior commissioned officer and snatch his service weapon.
“An Army administration convoy was passing through Ganovpora when it came under unprovoked and intense stone- pelting by a group of 100-120 stone-pelters. Within no time, their number swelled to 200-250 persons,” the spokesperson said.
“The crowd surrounded an isolated portion of the convoy consisting of four vehicles,” he said, noting that the stone- pelters caused extensive damage to these vehicles and tried to set them on fire.
Earlier on Sunday, BJP MLA from Nowshera, Ravinder Raina, defended the Army’s action, saying troops fired in self defence because 250 stone pelters attacked the convoy, injured jawans and tried to snatch their weapons.
“Whatever the Army had done is in the ambit of law and in self defence”, he said.
The Chief Minister, however, told the House that such killings only impair and slow down the political process in the state.
“Immediately after the incident took place, an FIR was lodged against the guilty and Shopian’s Deputy Commissioner was ordered to conduct a magisterial probe and submit a report within 15 days”, she said
Mehbooba had also called up Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who, according to her, shared her anguish and assured appropriate measures. “The Army as an institution has done a great job but the grace of an institution only enhances once the black sheep within are identified and weeded out”, she said.
The Chief Minister said that she has been stressing upon all security agencies during Unified Headquarters meetings to exercise maximum restraint and ensure that no collateral damage takes place during operations.
“Incidents like Shopian remind us that we cannot afford confrontation at any level and there is an urgent need to engage in meaningful dialogue at all levels. There is no alternative to dialogue within the state and between India and Pakistan because it is the people of Jammu and Kashmir who are facing the brunt of this acrimony and paying in terms of human and material losses”, she said.