Army Chief Shunts Out Two COs In Valley For Civilian Deaths25 April 2010
The Indian Express
New Delhi: Sending out the message that human rights should be respected and indiscipline would not be tolerated, Chief of Army Staff General V K Singh ensured that marching orders were given to the Commanding Officers of 6 and 53 Rashtriya Rifles battalions, holding them responsible for not being able to prevent civilian casualties in Handwara and Shopian towns respectively in the Valley. During his maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week after taking over as Army Chief, General V K Singh passed instructions down the line that the commanders should stick to their job and not talk about a “hot summer or heavy infiltration” from across the border as it incites the trouble-makers and has a direct impact on the tourist economy in the Valley. The Army Chief also met J&K Governor N N Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah during the three-day trip and discussed ways to counter insurgency in the state. South Block sources told The Indian Express that the Army Chief sent instructions to replace the 6 RR CO as prima facie discrepancies were found in the report sent by the unit after a 70-year-old man was killed in the Handwara forest on the night of April 14. While the victim, Habibullah Khan, was described as a beggar, his presence in the forest could not be explained. The new replacement is on his way and an inquiry has been instituted to ascertain the facts of the case. Last night, instructions were sent to replace the 53 RR battalion CO after a civilian was killed in firing in Kellar area of Shopian in the early hours of Saturday. While the RR apparently acted on a local police tip-off on the presence of militants, three persons, said to be timber smugglers, were fired at by the 53 RR personnel. One of them succumbed to injuries. However, what further upset the Army brass was that the CO chose to withdraw from the area at the advice of the civilian authorities, even as the entire town was agitated over the killing. The result was that two Army vehicles were set on fire by the agitating mob. A court of inquiry has been ordered. Meanwhile, General Singh, a counter-insurgency veteran, has also sensitised the J&K administration about the Pakistani attempts to revive the Hizbul Mujahideen as it is seen as a homegrown militant outfit, and the increase in overground cadres in the Valley. It is learnt that the Army is tying up with the civil administration and local police to tackle the overground workers.