Four days after two civilians were killed in Shopian during retaliatory firing by army personnel, the army filed a counter-FIR against ‘unspecified persons’ in the incident on Wednesday, 31 January. Another person succumbed to his injuries from the firing on Wednesday, taking the death toll to three.
However on 2 February, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti justified the registration of a counter FIR saying, “No counter FIR has been filed by the Army. It has only presented its version of the incident.”
The army has also submitted its version of the incident when its convoy was attacked in Shopian district to the Jammu and Kashmir Police, and explained its reasons for opening fire at the mob, officials said.
According to the army's narrative, submitted on Tuesday, the force's convoy was attacked by a group of stone-pelters and its personnel resorted to firing to save themselves, the officials said.
It has claimed it opened firing in self-defence after seven of its personnel were injured. The army has also submitted photographs of the vehicles damaged in the stone pelting.
The state government has ordered a magisterial probe into the incident.
Meanwhile, the army major, who was mentioned in an FIR over the death of two civilians in the firing incident in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian district, was not present at the spot of the incident, army sources claimed on Tuesday.
The army has launched an investigation into the incident, they added.
"The major was not present at the site of the incident. He was around 200 metres away from it... He was in the vicinity of the spot," a source said.
J&K Police chief SP Vaid had said on Monday that the registration of the FIR against the army in the Shopian incident was just the beginning of the investigation.
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference had demanded the arrest of soldiers named in the FIR, while the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded its withdrawal.
The state police had filed the FIR against the Indian Army's 10th Garhwal unit, charging them with murder, attempt to murder, and endangering life, over the killing of the two youths – Javaid Ahmad and Suhail Ahmad – on Saturday, 27 January, allegedly as a result of retaliatory fire by the security forces on stone-pelters, Hindustan Times reported.
The Major, who allegedly led the Army personnel at the time of the incident, was one of the mentioned along several others, in the FIR.
The charges under Sections 302, 307 and 336 are pressed.A senior police officer to Hindustan Times
The protesters had pelted stones on a security force convoy passing through Ganovpora village in Shopian district.
BJP Demands Withdrawal of FIR
According to IANS, ruling BJP legislator RS Pathania demanded the withdrawal of the FIR lodged against the army personnel, adding that a fresh FIR should be lodged without naming any army personnel.
The BJP legislator said “serious charges” had been levelled against the army in the FIR, which appeared that it had been “done under pressure.”
He added that since a magisterial probe has been ordered, “the law should take its own course.”
Another BJP member – state party spokesperson Virender Gupta – in a statement termed the incident "unfortunate and disgusting."
He said nothing should be done that demoralises the forces.
State police chief SP Vaid, however, clarified that the registration of the FIR was just the beginning of the investigation, and the army's version would be taken into account, PTI reported.
FIR to be Taken to ‘Logical Conclusion’: CM Mufti
A state government spokesman said Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti expressed deep anguish and sorrow over the death of the two civilians, and ordered an inquiry into the incident. She said the police FIR against the army unit involved in the firing in Shopian will be taken to a "logical conclusion", in a snub to ally BJP after it demanded withdrawal, PTI reported.
Mufti made the assertion while defending the police action, saying a "black sheep can be anywhere", amid an uproar in the state Assembly over the firing. Mufti added she did not believe the police action would have a demoralising effect on the army.
Terming the incident a “setback” to the political process, Mufti had 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 said if somebody commits a mistake, the person should be punished as such a course only brings laurels to the institution.
Sitharaman reportedly told the chief minister that she would seek a detailed report in connection with the incident, he added.
Meanwhile, a state government spokesperson said Mehbooba has conveyed her sympathies to the families of the dead and the injured.
‘Cycle of Killings Must End’
Politics apart, this cycle of killings must end. We all have to end this bloodshed.Omar Abdullah, former Chief Minister, Jammu and Kashmir
Speaking in the state Assembly, Abdullah said, "Bullets have been fired at chest height, which means the forces were not controlling the situation, but only firing. What was the purpose of ordering a magisterial probe if the police have already lodged an FIR into the incident."
'Opened Fire in Self-Defence’
In an official statement, the Defence PRO said there was an unprovoked and intense stone-pelting by a group of 100-120 stone-pelters, which later increased to 200-250 people, causing extensive damage to four army vehicles.
“The mob tried to lynch an officer and snatch his weapon,” the statement said.
The army was constrained to open fire in self-defence to prevent lynching of the officer and burning of government-owned vehicles by the mob. Seven army men suffered injuries and extensive damage was caused to eleven vehicles. In that process, two civilians succumbed to bullet injuries.Defence PRO
The security forces allegedly fired a few rounds to chase away the protesters, in which several persons were injured, the officials said. Two of the injured persons, identified as Javaid Ahmad Bhat and Suhail Javid Lone, succumbed to their injuries, they said.
The officials said another youth was rushed to a hospital in Srinagar in a critical condition for specialised treatment.
The situation in Ganovpora and the adjoining areas has been tense following the killing of the youths, they added.
(With additional inputs from PTI, ANI and IANS.)