Army admits mistake in killing 2 youth: Lt Gen Hooda

Fayaz Bukhari

Army Commander, Northern Command, Lt Gen DS Hooda along with GOC 15 Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha addressing a press conference in Srinagar on Friday. —Excelsior/Amin War
Army Commander, Northern Command, Lt Gen DS Hooda along with GOC 15 Corps Lt Gen Subrata Saha addressing a press conference in Srinagar on Friday.
—Excelsior/Amin War

SRINAGAR, Nov 7:  Army today admitted its mistake in the firing incident in Central Kashmir district of Budgam in which two youth were killed and equal number of them were injured.
General Officer Commanding (GOC) Northern Command of Army, Lt General D S Hooda told a news conference here that inquiry into the incident will be completed in 10 days and action taken against anyone found guilty of violating the rules of engagement.
“Let me state this very clearly that we take responsibility for what has happened,” said the Army commander.
The General admitted that mistakes happen on ground.  “Every time lessons are learnt and it is our desire that procedures are put in place that such incidents do not happen”, he said.
The GOC said that Army has ordered inquiry into the incident and it will be completed soon. “It commenced on the very next day. As of now, 15 civilian witnesses have been examined. The service witnesses have been examined”, he added.
Lt Gen Hooda said: “I want to assure everyone here that the highest standards of truth and highest standards of transparency will be followed. We are targeting that the inquiry is completed within days and not months. Hopefully, if all goes well and all the witnesses come in, we will have completed the inquiry in next 10 days.”
“We will also fully cooperate in any other investigation that is to be done, whether is to be by the police or ordered by the State Government or otherwise. The Army is fully committed to wholeheartedly participate in that”, the Army commander said.
The Army commander said the Ministry of Defence has announced a compensation of Rs 10 lakh each for the next of kin of the two deceased youth and Rs five lakh each to the injured boys. “We would like to assure the families of our fullest support and our fullest cooperation. We are committed to rehabilitation. We are committed to full recovery of those injured”, the GOC said.
“The boys who are injured are being provided quality medical care at the 92 base hospital here and we are hopeful that there are no long term issues as far as their medical health is concerned. The rehabilitation of the injured boys will also be taken up by us,” Lt General Hooda said.
The Army commander said: “At the outset, we sincerely wish that this incident had not happened. We share the sorrow and grief of the families and we express our deepest regrets over this loss of lives. It will be our focus to ensure that there are in no repeat of such incidents in future”.
The GOC sought suggestions to counter repeat of Chattergam type of incidents. “We would be grateful to receive any suggestion, any advice from civil society and population at large on how we can improve our procedure so that not a single innocent life is lost”, he said.
Lt General Hooda said that Army has specific do’s and don’ts for conducting operations. “We have very specific Do’s and Dont’s for conducting operations, which have been passed down to the troops. These have been very clearly spelt out and if there is any violation of these, we will deal with it appropriately. The circumstance under which this very unfortunate incident has taken place is being investigated as of now”, he said.
The Army commander said that the inquiry will be held in transparent manner. “As far as this incident is concerned, please wait what is going to happen on ground. What comes out in the inquiry we will be transparent. You will come to know what action will be taken by us”, he added.
The GOC said: “The version of survivors will be taken into account. The statement of the two injured boys have already been taken. We are going to take everyone’s version and there is not too much dispute in what has already been admitted that we did fire and that these boys got killed. There is no way we can disregard their version.”
Lt General Hooda said that the company whose troops are involved in the killing has been shifted. “The two companies have been interchanged with troops of 35 RR. They have been relocated to other area. Let us take this one step at a time. We don’t want to make too many changes in the grid that is established with elections coming. We did what was essential”, he added.
The Army commander said that such incidents are reversing the gains made by the Army. “I absolutely agree because all the work we do and the work that is done in flood relief, such incidents take us back”, he added.

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