Army Major accused of civilian killings in Kashmir receives gallantry award

Every year on the occasion of Independence day, the Indian government bestows Shaurya Chakra, the third highest peacetime gallantry award, which was also conferred to Army’s Major Aditya Kumar this year.

The move has sparked questions over the concept of bravery for the Indian government, as Major Aditya has been accused of two civilian killings in Kashmir in last January.

On 27 January, the unit under Major Aditya of army’s 10 Garhwal Rifles had fired at protestors in Ganovpora village of south Kashmir’s Shopian district that left two civilians dead.

Suhail Javid Lone (24) and Javid Ahmad Bhat (20) were both brought dead at the hospital after receiving bullet injuries. At least nine other has received injuries. A case was later registered in Jammu and Kashmir under sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) against Major Aditya.

Consequently, his father Lt. Col Karamveer Singh disagreed with the charges against his son and soon filed a petition in the Supreme court. The petition filed by him read, the local police had filed a FIR against his son, who was performing his “bonafide duties”. The petition added that lodging a FIR only against Major Aditya and not against the protestors “exposes the extremely sinister design, by which the entire effort is to somehow attack and breakdown the morale of the forces”.

Later on 12 February, the Supreme court willingly accepted the petition and restrained the Jammu and Kashmir Police from taking any “coercive steps” against Major Aditya. During the hearing of the case, the Centre said that the state government cannot lodge an FIR against serving army personnel when the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in the force in the state.

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Kashmiris believe that the written petition filed by Lt. Col Singh and the Shaurya Chakra by the Central government exposes the blind and false faith Government of India has on the forces. “Such acts only encourages people like Major Aditya to openly kill innocent people and to walk away with the honour of so called bravery,” said a Kashmiri student.

Both National Conference and People’s Democratic Party also have strongly criticised the decision of awarding Major Kumar. “If fingers are being raised against an officer for committing human rights violations, then the officer should not have been awarded. Normally it should not have happened. The charges against him should be taken care of,” PDP spokesperson Rafi Mir told The New Indian Express.

Mir called the award unfortunate, saying  when FIR was registered against Major Kumar, the case went to Supreme Court and the apex court stayed the proceedings in the FIR. “This adds to the situation that is messy here and fuels further anger among the people. Maybe he deserves the award, but his act (in which three civilians were killed) was condemned widely and the army should have taken care of it before honouring him,” he added.

Similarly the National Conference provincial president Nasir Aslam Wani also said that it is better to avoid these kind of actions so that people also feel wanted and don’t consider themselves unwanted.

However, according to an army statement on 27 January, an army administrative convoy was passing through Ganowpora chowk in Shopian when it came under “unprovoked and intense stone pelting by a group of 100-120 stone pelters” at around 3 pm.

“Within no time, their numbers swelled to 200-250 persons. The crowd surrounded an isolated portion of the convoy consisting of four vehicles. They caused extensive damage to these vehicles and tried to set them on fire. Considering the extreme gravity of the situation the army was constrained to open fire in self defence. In the process two civilians succumbed to the bullet injuries,” the army statement read.

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