J&K Govt-Army Divide Widens

17 March 2009
The Indian Express

Srinagar: When Union Home minister P Chidambaram visits J-K for a security review meeting, the growing chasm between the Omar Abdullah Government and the Army over the civil administration’s authority to investigate human rights violations by the troops will be a top priority. The J-K Government’s inquiry report on the recent Bomai (Sopore) incident, in which two villagers were killed by Army personnel is the latest instance of the Army questioning the civil administration’s jurisdiction. Sources reveal that the J-K Government may raise fake encounter cases in which the police could only arrest its own erring officers, while the Army men chargesheeted for the killings of villagers went scot-free, dubbing the victims as “militants”. A glaring example is the custodial killing of Imam Showkat Ahmad Kataria in October 2006. When the Imam was reported missing from Zadibal locality in downtown Srinagar, investigations revealed that he had been picked up by a joint party of Special Operations Group of Ganderbal police and 13 Rashtriya Rifles. He was killed at Bazipore and later declared as a Pakistani Jaish militant. Finally, the J-K Police chargesheeted eleven persons who included five police officers, five Army men and a civilian for the murder. But while the policemen were promptly arrested by their colleagues, the Army refused to hand over its men. The trial court had to stay the proceedings of the case after the Army filed a petition in Supreme Court questioning the civil administrations authority to probe its men. The recent controversy was sparked when the Omar Abdullah-led Government’s first inquiry commission heavily indicted the Army for “killing two civilians without any provocation”, adding that its actions “breached all operational procedures”. Two civilians, Muhammed Amin Tantray and Javid Ahmed Dar were killed when troops of 22 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) opened fire on devotees at Bomai village. The incident sparked massive protests across the Valley and the CM ordered a magisterial inquiry. A murder case was also registered against the Army unit by the J-K Police. Sources said that Deputy Commissioner, Baramulla Baseer Ahmad Khan who led the inquiry commission to probe the killing of two civilians in Bomai village in the outskirts of Sopore town, in his report has mentioned there was “no crossfire as claimed by the Army.”