In his tweet on Army chief designate Dalbir Singh, minister of state V K Singh has accused him of protecting a unit that “kills innocents” and “does dacoity”. It turns out, however, that both accusations against the 3 Corps Intelligence and Surveillance Unit, relating to events separated by over two years, have been exhaustively probed by the Army in inquires and court-martial proceedings.
One probe culminated in the dismissal of a havildar and disciplinary action that has left permanent blots on officers’ careers. The other case was closed for lack of evidence. The inquiries were carried out by senior officers, each team headed by a brigadier under 3 Corps or 4 Corps, under the rules and regulations of the Army Act, the same process used by V K Singh for multiple inquires during his decades-long career.
The first of the two events took place before Dalbir Singh took charge of 3 CIU. And when the second took place, he was away on leave.
V K Singh has targeted Dalbir Singh several times, most famously in his last days as Army chief in May 2012 when a showcause notice and discipline ban was imposed on Dalbir on grounds that the BJP government has now described as “illegal” and “premeditated” in an affidavit in the Supreme Court. The same view has already been upheld by the Armed Forces Tribunal.
A look at the two events, and how the Army has dealt with each:
The case refers to an intelligence operation in December 2011, by a 3 CIU team under Captain Rubina Kaur Keer. The allegation tis hat Havildar S Thapa of the team stole some money and valuables from the house of Surajit Gogoi, a contractor in Jorhat.
Gogoi alleged that Army personnel had broken into his house, blindfolded his wife and three children, and taken a number of items, which he has listed before the Gauhati High Court: a licensed pistol, ammunition, mobile phones, cash and gold, a laptop, and various documents including a passport and an income tax PAN card.
The Jorhat police registered a case for robbery/dacoity with attempt to cause death or grievous hurt. Gogoi also moved the Gauhati High Court and the National Human Rights Commission, while the Army instituted a court of inquiry and submitted its probe report to the court Tuesday. “The court has given us two weeks to submit an additional affidavit,,” said Benu Das, Gogoi’s counsel. Gogoi told The Indian Express the Army has returned most of the items, except for gold ornaments and cash.
The Army probe has been completed with one soldier dismissed and two officers awarded punishments that have effectively ruined their Army careers (see box).
In March 2010, three decomposed bodies were recovered in Dimapur. An FIR was lodged by the police against unknown persons. The Army was not approached then as inputs of intelligence units as well as the local police suggested that the killings were the result of an inter-group rivalry .
V K Singh, incidentally, was the Eastern Army commander then, while the 3 Corps commander was Lt Gen N K Singh. Dalbir Singh was a major general posted in Delhi; he would take charge of 3 Corps only in March 2011, a full year after the recovery of the bodies.
The matter blew up only two years later when an officer with the unit sent a complaint to V K Singh, who by then had become the Army chief. Major Ravi Kiran alleged that the killings had been carried out by the 3 CIU. However, a detailed inquiry led by a Brigadier, which examined scores of jawans and officers, found no substance in the allegations of a fake encounter, leading to the closure of the case (see box).
The probe found many inconsistencies in Kiran’s allegations. He had said “sometime between March 15 and 21, 2010”, he had heard gunshots behind the mess that “he strongly feels” could be linked to the Dimapur killings. The officer, who incidentally had a hearing disability, had not been in the unit from March 17 and 21, it was found. Also, Kiran had named Lt Col Perumal, Lt Col Kulbir Singh, Hav P Kayi and Sep Ghosh as having heard the firing, but all four later denied it.
Before making the allegations, Major Kiran had been posted out of 3 CIU and graded “low” in annual ACRs. The probe also noted that three checkpoints manned by various forces existed between the mess and the place where the bodies were found.
Incidentally, after the probe was closed, a PIL in the Manipur High Court this year alleged Dalbir Singh’s involvement in the “fake encounter”. His name was later taken off the list of respondents after it was pointed out he was not in charge of 3 Corps in 2010.
With Samudra Gupta Kashyap in Guwahati