Six policemen, including an officer, were injured when soldiers of 24 Rashtriya Rifles entered into a police station at Gund in Ganderbal, around 25 km from Srinagar, late on Friday night and allegedly threatened and thrashed the men. Police have registered a case against the soldiers, with J&K Director General of Police S P Vaid also taking up the matter with the Corps Commander, 15 Corps.
The Army, which called the incident a minor scuffle, assured action against the soldiers and said the dispute had been resolved. Police officials said the clash started when policemen stopped some Army personnel who were in civilian clothes at a naka. A senior police officer said more than 30 soldiers of the 24 RR were travelling in four different vehicles when they were stopped, on the intervening night of July 21-22, by the naka party of Police Station Gund Ganderbal, headed by Assistant Sub-Inspector Ghulam Rasool.
When the Armymen told the police officials they were returning from the Amarnath Yatra, police argued that as per the new Yatra timings, which are being strictly enforced after the recent attacks on Yatris, the Armymen were on the road past the cut-off hour. “The Armymen who were in their civvies showed no identification, came down from the vehicles and started thrashing the on-duty officer and other officials, resulting in injuries to the ASI,” said the police officer.
Later, as per the police, the Army parties of Gund and Surbraw 24 RR camps, headed by Captain Shukla, arrived at the police station in Gund and thrashed all the police personnel present while also damaging some official records. “Why would the Army beat up J&K Police personnel in a police station? This requires immediate clarification/action by the authorities,” former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted. Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said it was “sad to hear about the severe beating of Kashmiri policemen by the Army”. “By virtue of being Kashmiri, even those who aid State oppression not spared!” he said.
Constable Mohammad Aslam, who claimed to have been beaten by the soldiers, said, “At the time of the incident, I was at my rented accommodation, close to the Gund police station. I heard some noises from the roadside. I went out to check at the naka. There were men with sticks in their hands having altercation with my colleagues on duty. They were arguing that faujis cannot be stopped like this. They said, ‘Hum gaadi ko jala denge (We will set the vehicle on fire),” said Aslam.
The Constable added that the soldiers refused to be pacified. “The Armymen told us they had gone for the Amarnath Yatra. Our ASI tried to tell the agitated soldiers that there are strict guidelines that the yatra cannot move after cut-off time. But soldiers created a scene and started beating up our ASI. Watching this, the civilians tried to come to our rescue. Sensing that the matter would go out of hands, we asked the villagers not to interfere.”
He said that while he went with the injured men to the hospital, the 32 soldiers who were protesting were taken to the police station. “As our men started noting details of the Armymen, around 11:16 pm, eight RR men barged into our station. Then all the RR men together went on a rampage, beating up everyone with sticks and gun butts. I was hit on the knee and hid under the bed. Before leaving, they told us: ‘It is just a start’.”
The Armymen turned office records upside down and broke the television, the laptop of the SHO and window-panes, said Aslam. ASI Bashir Ahmad, whose shoulder was fractured, said, “They launched an assault on us, as if playing a wrestling match. They (the Army) today tendered an apology, but we won’t accept it. Let the court decide.”
Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said a minor altercation had taken place between some Army personnel returning from the Amarnath Yatra and Jammu and Kashmir Police personnel at Gund. “No major injuries were suffered in the incident and the matter was resolved by personnel intervention of senior officers. Measures to prevent recurrence have been taken.”