A court of inquiry on Friday found three soldiers, one of them a junior commissioned officer (JCO), guilty of killing civilians in Bomai village in Sopore on February 21. Disciplinary action has been ordered against them, which will commence with immediate effect.
A defence spokesperson said inquiry found various lapses on part of the three soldiers of the 22 Rashtriya Rifles. “The charges, besides the failure to exercise desired command and control by the JCO, also encompass failure by two soldiers to exercise restraint in the handling of their weapon during the incident,” he said.
“Any additional charges that may be brought out by police investigations will be dealt with as per the law,” he added. The spokesperson said the army was committed to upholding the law of the land and having “zero tolerance” against human rights violations.
The killing had sparked widespread protests in the Valley, forcing Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to order a magisterial inquiry. The report, which indicted the army, was submitted to the Defence Ministry last week. The army, however, rejected the report and said: “It was not valid under armed forces special powers Act”.
Omar then raised the issue with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram during his visit to Jammu on Wednesday. Chidambaram, too, reiterated the Centre’s resolve of “zero tolerance” against human rights violations.
Meanwhile, residents of Bomai village have decided to migrate. The residents, including those in the surrounding villages, were enraged by the killing and had demanded that the army camp in the village be removed. The district administration had assured it would be shifted within 15 days. “The deadline has passed. The camp is still there. Our lives and honour is under threat in presence of the army camp,” said Moulvi Rasheed, the head preacher of the local grand mosque.
“The migration will begin from tomorrow (Saturday). In the first place, one person from each family will move out and search for shelters in other villages. After that other residents would move out,” he said.