April 2002 News

Farooq ''upset'' with Army over Baramulla incident

5 April 2002
The Hindu

SRINAGAR: Well-placed sources said the issue of ''wholesale'' beating of hundreds of civilians (of whom over 100 were injured) by the troops of 10 JAK Rifles of the Army was raised by Dr. Abdullah at the UH meeting, attended by the Defence Minister, George Fernandes, also. As the Chief Minister took strong exception to the beating of the civilians in retaliation to a militant attack, which caused much embarrassment to his Government, the same was taken by the Army brass with a pinch of salt. The Commander of 15 Corps Lt. Gen. V.G. Patankar, who is also the security adviser to the Chief Minister, is reported to have told the meeting that the Army had no role if it was ''taken to task'' even for ''minor issues'' like the Baramulla incident in which two Army jawans were killed and four injured. ''We should go to barracks then'' he is reported to have said. However, Dr. Abdullah, sources said, made it clear to the Army that things could be managed without its presence. ''I have the police, the BSF, the CRPF and other forces to maintain peace in the State and have asked the top Army official to go with his plan for moving back to barracks.'' Mr. Fernandes reportedly pacified Dr. Abdullah and asked the Army to ensure that harassment was not caused to civilians. The Chief Minister, according to sources, told the meeting that despite the remarkable role played by the security forces in tackling militancy, aberrations like in Baramulla reverted the ''situation back to square one''. ''We have no answer to the public on this account,'' he is reported to have said. It is learnt that the presence of militants in the Kashmir Valley, infiltration and strategy to fight the militants were discussed threadbare in the meeting with clear directions to all the security forces to work in close coordination. On March 30, a party from 10 JAK Rifles rounded up the residents of Tawheed Gunj locality in Baramulla after an attack by militants the previous night. Militants had killed two soldiers and injured four. The residents were allegedly beaten up and over 100 of them were injured and admitted to hospital. They also raided houses, including a ''madrassa'', and arrested eleven persons. The incident caused serious resentment among the public and the Minister of State for Home, Khalid Suhrawardy, and the Director-General of Police, A.K. Suri, visited Baramulla to pacify the people.


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