Troops guilty of Kashmir ‘lapses’March 21, 2009
A high-level army court of inquiry probing the killing of two civilians in Indian-administered Kashmir has found three soldiers guilty of “lapses”.
The defence ministry said that the inquiry had singled out a junior commissioned officer (JCO) and two other soldiers.
The inquiry relates to the killing of two Muslim men last month in Bumai. Local residents allege that soldiers fired without any provocation and the deaths sparked mass protests. The army authorities initially gave conflicting versions of the incident – in which a civilian was also injured – but finally ordered the court of inquiry.
The military at first said that two unknown people masquerading as Indian soldiers had opened fire. Later it said the civilians had been caught in crossfire between troops and militants.
“The JCO failed to exercise the desired command and control while the two soldiers failed to exercise restraint in handling their weapons during the incident,” a defence ministry statement said.
It said that “disciplinary action” had been ordered against the three soldiers with immediate effect but gave no further details. The statement did not spell out who killed the two civilians in Bumai and in what circumstances. But it suggested the soldiers were not directly responsible.
The army promised additional charges could be brought against the three if police investigations unearthed new evidence.
Army spokesman Col DK Kachari said: “The army reiterates its commitment to uphold the law of the land and zero tolerance against human rights violations.”
The killings triggered massive protests by people in Bumai and neighbouring communities.
A separate magisterial probe ordered by the Jammu and Kashmir state government has reportedly indicted the soldiers.
State Chief Minister Omar Abdullah told a press conference on Friday that the army camp in Bumai would be removed within six days.
The residents of Bumai have threatened mass migration unless army and paramilitary camps are removed by Saturday.