Claim of Army Men Jailed For 2014 Budgam Incident is ‘Fake’
The top officer in-charge of Northern Command in 2014 confirmed that the news of soldiers being jailed is ‘fake’.
On 14 February, the country witnessed one of the worst terror attacks after a suicide bomber rammed a car carrying more than 350 kg of explosives into a convoy of CRPF jawans, killing at least 40 security personnel in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district.
Soon after, several Twitter users, including BJP MP Subramanian Swamy, claimed that the attack occurred because of a 2014 incident in Budgam, due to which security forces were told not to stop any vehicle at check points on the Srinagar highway. According to the tweets, the jawans who had reportedly shot at a car that had “smashed through three check points” were also jailed.
The claim that the jawans are "still in jail" for allegedly killing two teenagers was also found to be a recurring rhetoric.
In a show on India TV, Major General (Retd.) GD Bakshi also made the same claim.
What Had Happened in Budgam?
In November 2014, a patrol belonging to the 53 Rashtriya Rifles had shot at a white Maruti after the car reportedly did not stop at two checkpoints in Kashmir’s Budgam, raising suspicions. Two teenagers were killed in the incident, one of whom was 14 years old. Two others were also injured in the firing.
The incident triggered widespread protests across the Valley, with the Army issuing a rare public apology. In a short amount of time after that, a court of inquiry found 9 Army personnel guilty, according to reports.
Was There Ever a Court-Martial?
The top officer in-charge at the time, Lt Gen (retd) DS Hooda, told The Quint that the claims of security personnel being court-martialed was “fake news.”
Lt General Hooda confirmed there was neither a court martial nor were security personnel imprisoned in relation to the case. The then General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command, Hooda had publicly apologised after the incident, adding that the “Army took full responsibility for the deaths,” The Indian Express reported.
“This all fake news. There was an inquiry that was conducted, but there was no court martial. While we had done our inquiry, a police investigation was ongoing. We wanted to wait till the police completed its investigation, so we could put both the things together and take action on the court of inquiry and police report. But there’s been no court martial.”Lt Gen (retd) DS Hooda to The Quint
Hooda also said that there was never any government order against "stopping vehicles at check points” following the Budgam incident, as claimed by Swamy and other Twitter users.
Swamy is not the first to claim that the jawans had been imprisoned in the case.
On 22 July 2016, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh penned an article in The Tribune, in which he wrote that an officer and eight jawans were court-martialed and imprisoned over the Budgam incident.
The next day, the Northern Command of the Indian Army had tweeted a clarification in response to Singh's article, stating that nobody had been imprisoned in the case.
Lt General (retired) Syed Ata Hasnain also took to Twitter to state that while media reports had claimed an Army inquiry had held 9 security personnel guilty, the force’s process of court martial included more steps. “An inquiry is considered the end all to jail a man. It goes on to a Summary of Evidence, then a General Court Martial which has to be confirmed two levels higher.”
Discrepancies Between Army’s Version and Police Report
Meawhile, according to an NDTV report from 2014, the Army had claimed that the jawans posted at the check point had signaled at the car to stop and when it didn't, they resorted to firing. The channel further mentioned that the jawans were watching out for terrorists travelling in a white car in the region.
However, a joint report submitted by the Budgam district magistrate and the senior superintendent of police stated that jawans had fired 118 rounds at the car, with 28 bullets hitting the vehicle, indicating the soldiers’ “criminal intent to kill.”
Quoting the report, The Indian Express reported:
“As per eyewitnesses, the Maruti 800 was stopped by the Army naka party (check point) but skidded off the road and hit a pole on the side. In the meantime, one of the detachments of the naka party fired upon the vehicle.”
The police had also ascertained that the soldiers at the checkpoint had no specific information about terrorist movement in the region, and only had general input, which "is very common", a source told the daily.
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