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Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, heading a BJP-PDP alliance government in the state, has opened a Pandora’s box by slapping a First Information Report (FIR) under Section 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 336 (endangering life) of the Indian Penal Code against troops of the 10 Garhwal led by a Major-rank officer.
Two stone pelters identified as Javaid Ahmad Bhat and Suhail Javaid Lone were killed in firing near Ganowpora village on Saturday in Shopian when a large group of stone pelters resorted to intense stone pelting on the convoy of army vehicles moving through the area.
So far the army has maintained that its troopers opened fire in ‘self-defence’ as some of the stone pelters attempted to lynch an injured Junior commissioned officer.
A total number of seven Army men, including a Junior Commissioned Officer, were injured in the stone pelting.
This is not for the first time in the long history of militancy in the state that an FIR has been slapped against the Indian army but it is for the first time an officer has been named in the FIR even before initiating a formal investigation in the case.
It is no secret that despite Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) still remaining operational in the state of Jammu and Kashmir the state police must have filed the FIR under pressure from the political bosses.
The crucial development has also stunned nationalist BJP in the state as it remains clueless over the next course of action of the Chief Minister who is keen on demonstrating her whip over the functioning of the alliance government in the state.
Though some of the firebrand BJP lawmakers did raise their voices in the state assembly by calling the decision of the state government as nothing but a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction but the senior party ministers maintained a stoic silence over the contentious issue.
Some other BJP MLAs’ raised the demand for withdrawal of existing FIR but so far the state police have not acted on the similar lines.
Army fired under grave provocation: GoC 15 Corps
Outgoing General Officer in Command of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt Gen J S Sandhu Tuesday said there was a “grave provocation” at Shopian which compelled the Army to open fire.
“The Shopian deaths took place due to violent provocation. You would have seen the extensive damage to the Army vehicles. There was no need for an administrative movement to be stoned heavily. The Army too does not want to kill civilians, in this case, it had to do so in self-defence,” Lt General Sandhu said.
He said the Army was assisting the police in the investigation in the case and if the inquiry found any soldier guilty, he would be punished.
Govt will take the probe to its logical conclusion: Mehbooba Mufti
Shopian firing incident echoed in the state assembly on Monday with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti promising to take the investigation to the “logical conclusion”.
Defending her government’s decision to lodge an FIR against the army personnel involved in the incident Mufti said she did not believe the action would have a demoralising effect on the force.
Terming the incident a “setback” to the political process, Mufti said she had spoken about it to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who asked her to take the required action in case there was “carelessness”.
“I do not accept that the Army gets demoralised by such actions. The Army is an institution and has done a wonderful job.
She said if somebody commits a mistake, he should be punished as such a course only brings laurels to the institution.
“If some Army officer has committed a mistake, an FIR has been lodged and it is the duty of the government to take it to a logical conclusion,” Mufti said.
Giving details, she said two militants and a civilian were killed in an encounter on January 24. “The police asked the Army to not pass through the village as one of the militants killed in the encounter was its resident. The Army, because of some compulsion, took the route but their vehicles came under stone pelting resulting in the killing of two civilians in the firing,” she said.
It is a “big issue”, Mufti said.
Every now and then we have “unfortunate” incidents that should not have happened, she added.
“We are asking the Army and other security forces to maintain utmost restraint but it is also a fact that unlike in the past when villages used to get deserted if there was an encounter, or even a fake encounter, now hundreds indulge in stone pelting on security forces when an encounter breaks out,” she said.
Mufti said that whether at Unified Command meetings or elsewhere, she always advocated restraint in dealing with civilians. I asked the forces to resort to aerial firing instead of direct firing if they have no other option, she said.
The government is on the back foot due to such killings and it is of no benefit to us, she said.
I talked to the Union Defence Minister immediately after learning about the incident and she was positive in her response, Mufti told the House. “She said if you feel there is carelessness (on the part of the Army), you take whatever action you want to take. Subsequently, we lodged an FIR and ordered a magisterial probe,” the chief minister said.
Video of Mehbooba Mufti’s speech confirming that she spoke with DefMin:
War of words between BJP-PDP
Slapping of an FIR against the army officer allegedly involved in Shopian firing incident in which two protesters were killed and nine others were injured has now triggered a war of words between BJP-PDP lawmakers in the state.
Though senior ministers remained mum and shied away from commenting but some junior leaders from both the parties sparred over the emotive issue and took a contradictory stand.
First of all, a firebrand BJP MLA from Nowshera Ravinder Raina came out in full support of army action and defended the firing on a group of protesters who targeted army convoy and came close to attacking JCO.
R. S Pathania said already a magisterial probe has been ordered into the incident and let the law take its own course.
“There is a consensus on the magisterial probe and criminal action should be taken against the guilty. But naming the Army personnel in the FIR (without completion of the inquiry) and leveling serious charges should not have been done,” he told the Assembly.
Shortly after PDP MLC Firduos Tak took to Twitter to give vent to his ire.
Responding to a tweet of a TV news channel Tak wrote, “u claim to be ‘shud-shakahari’ becoz slaughtering seems to b bad and on the other side justify human killings. Some people suffer from mental splitting disorder. They need immediate counselling”.
Earlier in the day, Raina had stated that “army did the right thing” by opening fire.
Raina had also dared the police to register “as many FIRs as you want” as army enjoys the impunity under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
“There is nothing like a magisterial inquiry. Army enjoys impunity under AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir, the army has its own court… lodge FIR as many as you want… police FIRs don’t work (against the army),” he boasted.
The legislator said: “What army did was an act of self defence, for the security of the nation and as per law… it was extremely important and much needed…this was very important…army did the right thing.”
Raina said that Pakistan was trying to fuel violence in Jammu and Kashmir. “Pakistan is making repeated attempts to worsen the situation in Jammu and Kashmir… attempts are being made to snatch the weapons of our soldiers… attacks are being carried out on our soldiers… soldiers are being injured… vehicles of our soldiers were damaged… in such circumstances our soldiers won’t worship them,” he said.
He also lashed out the amnesty scheme announced by the government for stone-pelters in the state.
“Will single out all of them (stone-pelters) and put them behind bars… there is nothing like amnesty… they will learn a lesson,” he said.
NO ARMY OFFICER NAMED IN THE FIR: DGP
Director General of Police Dr. SP Vaid Monday clarified no officer has been named in the FIR who is guilty of opening fire on protesters in Ganowpora area of Shopian in which two protesters were killed on January 27.
Interacting with the media persons here in the lawns of police headquarters Dr. Vaid said, “FIR is the start of the investigation process.It does not conclude there”.
Responding to a specific query on what action would follow against the army officer named in the FIR Dr SP Vaid once again clarified, “as you are saying it is not that any officer has been named”.
“FIR only says so and so unit of the army headed by such and such officer was there and now it is a matter of investigation what were the circumstances they were pelted upon and what were the circumstances they were fired upon.It is all a subject matter of investigation.Investigation includes every thing. We will give 101 percent weightage to the version of the Indian army. Investigation is all inclusive and we will listen to every one including the eyewitnesses, families of those killed in the firing and the Indian army”, he added.
Govt creating confusion: Omar
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday said that ordering a magisterial probe into the killings of civilians in Shopian and simultaneously registering an FIR against Army is creating confusion.
Abdullah while addressing the state assembly said that at a time when the government has already registered an FIR there was no need to order a Magistrate probe.
“We are giving confusing signals. On one side, magisterial inquiry has been ordered which would have made sense if FIR was registered against unknown persons. But FIR has been registered reportedly with name of a Major and one other,” said Omar.
“If we know the names in murder and attempt to murder case, then what is the need of magisterial inquiry. I will request you not to do politics. We need to give justice to those who lost their lives or received injuries and then take steps to stop this sequence,” he added.
- Army is not on a picnic to Kashmir
- Army is receiving huge support on various social media platforms.
- Army is defending country’s borders and battling forces of cross-border jihadist terrorism,
wrote patriotic nationals on their social media pages.
Creating obstacles in the movement of the army & in its functioning during encounters with terrorists and also lending helping hand to Jihadist state of Pakistan in defaming our highly disciplined army are Anti-National acts.
“There is need to tackle firmly the forces of subversion which provide space to jihadist elements to keep Kashmir away from normality”, followers of the Indian army said while participating in one of the debates on a social media platform.