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Army indicts nine soldiers for killing two men in Budgam, recommends court martial proceedings

Within days after firing in Budgam claimed lives of two people and injured two others, the Army has indicted nine soldiers including a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) for the incident.

A court of inquiry on the Army officers found gross violation of rules of engagement by the soldiers. Failure of command by officer – in charge of the Army column has also been found in the inquiry. The Army has recommended court martial proceedings against the soldiers.

The Army had accepted the incident as a mistake and taken responsibility for the firing that took place on November 3. “We take responsibility of incident. A mistake has taken place,” GOC Northern Command Lieutenant General DS Hooda had said.

The Army’s Rashtriya Rifles unit posted there claimed that they fired at the car when it didn’t stop despite being signaled. Two died instantly, two were injured and one boy escaped to the fields.

A state government report said the car had skidded while overtaking another vehicle and hit an electric pole.

The families of the boys alleged that the firing started without warning or provocation.

A swift verdict by the Army’s Court of Inquiry, in less than a month, sends a strong political message in the middle of polls in the state.

Sources say the seniormost commanding officer in Jammu and Kashmir had been asked by the political establishment in Delhi to visit the families of the two boys, apologise and offer compensation.

Earlier this month, the army convicted five of its soldiers, including two officers, and sentenced them to life in jail for a staged shootout in Machhil in 2010.

Demands for ending a controversial act that gives the army sweeping powers in conflict zones have been high on the agenda of political parties in Jammu and Kashmir. The army’s rulings in two major cases in quick succession are seen to be its counter-point to that demand.

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