Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said today it was her government’s duty to take the investigation in the Shopian incident, where two civilians were killed allegedly in Army firing, to a logical conclusion.
Defending her government’s decision to lodge an FIR against the personnel involved in the incident, Mehbooba Mufti said she did not believe the action would have a demoralising effect on the force.
Terming the incident a “setback” to the political process, Mufti said she had spoken about it to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who asked her to take the required action in case there was “carelessness”.
She was addressing the state Assembly which saw repeated interruptions by the opposition, which moved an adjournment motion over the killing of two civilians in south Kashmir’s Shopian district on Saturday.
The J&K Police had yesterday registered an FIR under sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Ranbir Penal Code against personnel of the 10 Garhwal unit of the Army.
“I do not accept that the Army gets demoralised by such actions. The Army is an institution and has done a wonderful job. But black sheep can be anywhere… Among judges there can be black sheep, but we can’t paint everyone with the same brush,” Mufti said.
She said if somebody commits a mistake, he should be punished as such a course only brings laurels to the institution.
“If some Army officer has committed a mistake, an FIR has been lodged and it is the duty of the government to take it to a logical conclusion,” Mufti said.
Giving details, she said two militants and a civilian were killed in an encounter on January 24. “The police asked the Army to not pass through the village as one of the militants killed in the encounter was its resident. The Army, because of some compulsion, took the route but their vehicles came under stone pelting resulting in the killing of two civilians in the firing,” she said.
It is a “big issue”, Mufti, who leads a PDP-BJP coalition in the state, said.
Every now and then we have “unfortunate” incidents that should not have happened, she added.
“We are asking the Army and other security forces to maintain utmost restraint but it is also a fact that unlike in the past when villages used to get deserted if there was an encounter, or even a fake encounter, now hundreds indulge in stone pelting on security forces when an encounter breaks out,” she said.
Mufti said that whether at Unified Command meetings or elsewhere, she always advocated restraint in dealing with civilians. “I asked the forces to resort to aerial firing instead of direct firing if they have no other option,” she said.
The government is on the back foot due to such killings and it is of no benefit to us, she said.
“I talked to the Union defence minister immediately after learning about the incident and she was positive in her response,” Mufti told the House.
“She said if you feel there is carelessness (on the part of the Army), you take whatever action you want to take. Subsequently, we lodged an FIR and ordered a magisterial probe,” the Chief Minister said.
During the course of her speech, Congress legislature party leader Nawang Rigzin Jora interrupted Mufti twice after she claimed that the UPA’s ten years saw no progress on the Kashmir issue. The Congress leader questioned Mufti on what stopped her from carrying the initiatives forward.
Mufti lauded initiatives taken by BJP prime ministers Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi for restoring peace in Jammu and Kashmir and normalising relations with Pakistan. “Modi has taken over from where Vajpayee left,” she claimed.
She praised the Centre for “serious initiatives” on Kashmir and asked opposition members to maintain consistency on dialogue, relations with Pakistan etc.
“We can’t afford confrontation with Pakistan because we suffer a lot and I am feeling happy when there is any indication of back channel dialogue between the two countries,” she said.
Mufti faced another interruption when National Conference legislature party leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah rose from his seat after she claimed that he had once said that youth pelting stones on security bunkers were committing suicide.
“I never said such a thing but had cited the example of a youth arrested for stone pelting who said he was fed up with life after a girl rejected him. His friends told him it is a sin to commit suicide. The youth claimed he was pelting stones so that they fire and he die a martyr’s death,” Abdullah said.
He accused Mufti of playing politics over “dead bodies”.
“I don’t believe in playing politics over dead bodies. I pray to Allah to keep me away from such a thing but the chief minister can only play politics over dead bodies,” he alleged.
Earlier, several members including Omar Abdullah, Ali Mohammad Sagar, Mian Altaf Ahmad, M Y Tarigami, Hakeem Mohammad Yasin, Mohammad Yousuf Bhat, R S Pathania, Gulzar Ahmad Wani, Bashir Ahmad Dar and Pawan Gupta participated in the discussion.