Army Not At Fault, GOC Retorts Omar7 February 2011
Baramulla: Ruling out violation of Standard Operation Procedures SOPs by army men during killing of 21-year old student in Handwara, GoC 15 Corps Lt General S A Hasnain Monday said he has assured the chief minister that Handwara like incident won’t be repeated. He, however, said troops’ domination at night will continue but army would minimize its independent operations. “As per SOPs, any civilian venturing out of home at night is required to hold a lantern or any other light in hand to avoid collateral damage,” Lt Gen Hasnain told reporters on sidelines of informal interaction with senior citizens, youth and other persons in Baramulla town today. He said SOPs during killing of youth by army men in Handwara were strictly followed. “The youth was not carrying any light in hand and ran away after being signalled to stop. How can one differentiate between the militant and a civilian when the person runs away besides not holding any light in hand,” he said. GoC, however, was quick to add that he regrets the loss of innocent life. “An innocent life was lost and I can’t defend the killing. The unfortunate incident won’t be hurdle in army’s efforts in reaching out to the masses,” he said. “After meeting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah personally on Sunday, I have assured him that Handwara like incident won’t be repeated. I told him that warning would be given to the person before opening fire. The security of common civilian is the utmost priority of army,” Hasnain said. He said although the government has already ordered magisterial inquiry to ascertain the cause of killing, the army will also begin an internal inquiry. “I am sure very soon the actual cause of death of the civilian would be ascertained although the evidences have already exposed the circumstances of death,” he said. GoC said the troops’ domination at night will continue to thwart any kind of militant movement. “At various points especially in less populated areas, forests and near LoC, army independently carries out anti-militancy operations on specific inputs. After receiving tip-offs, army carries out independent operations without informing local police as they are short of time. However, we would minimize it and try utmost to seek police presence during operations at every possible spot,” he said. GoC refused to comment when asked why army didn’t handover the troopers involved in ‘Machil fake encounter’ to police for questioning. He said that militancy has not come to an end. In an attempt to address alienation of people in Old town Baramulla, Hasnain said vocational training centers would be set up for youth in Old town to impart them technical training for self employment. “The shops would also be provided to unemployed and uneducated people, who have crossed the age bar for government services,” he said. He assured the local Auqaf Committee of every possible help for the under construction health centre in the township. The constriction of hospital started by the local Auqaf was halted few years back due to paucity of funds. Later, Hasnain gave patient hearing to the grievances of locals. The elders sought development of township and demanded an end to the alleged harassment by the security agencies on pretext of stone pelting and others. DIG North, Muneer Khan, who was also present on the occasion, assured them that those who refrain from stone pelting would be allowed to live a normal life. “But they must make sure that they will not participate in any trouble making activity,” he added.