4 in hospital after officers and jawans clash at Army firing range in Leh

While the Army described the incident as “minor”,a high-level inquiry has been ordered

Written by Mir Ehsan | Srinagar | Published:May 12, 2012 2:16 am

At least four Army personnel,including the commanding officer of an artillery unit,had to be admitted to hospital after violence broke out last evening between officers and jawans of the 226 Field Regiment at the Mahi firing range in Nyoma,close to the Sino-Indian border.

While the Army described the incident as “minor”,a high-level inquiry has been ordered,with Defence Minister A K Antony seeking a detailed report.

The official number of injured is four,and the Army said they had been admitted to a field hospital nearby with “minor injuries”. However,sources said the violence had lasted several hours and that apart from the commanding officer,three majors and 10 jawans received injuries.

Sources also added that for several hours,angry jawans had not let their seniors enter the camp and also caused heavy damage to the officers’ mess and other temporary shelters at the range.

“A minor scuffle took place between officers and troops of a unit on night 10/11 May 2012 in Ladakh region in J&K. Few minor injuries were suffered by personnel. The situation is under control and a court of inquiry has been ordered,” a statement released by the Army said. Northern Command spokesman Rajesh Kalia reiterated the same to The Indian Express,denying that jawans had taken control of arms and ammunition at the headquarters or the firing range. “No firing took place at the spot,” he said. The Army also clarified that no arms were used.

For the past few days,the 226 Field Regiment has been camping at Mahi Nyoma,a barren notified range for annual field artillery practice,around 150 km from Leh. Temporary camps had been set up around the range.

Sources said the brawl started yesterday afternoon when firing practice was on at an open ground. An Army major who was overlooking the firing practice reportedly thrashed a jawan and then prevented other jawans from providing medical aid to the injured,sending tempers rising. Sources said the major was annoyed as the jawan had allegedly tried to molest his wife,a charge denied by the jawans. There were also reports of jawans being annoyed with the facilities at the camp.

The commanding officer of 226 Field Regiment,Colonel P Kadam,was informed,and he rushed to the spot. There are conflicting reports about what happened after that. Some say the officer had a clash with the major. Angry jawans are then reported to have attacked the officers with sticks,in which the CO too got injured.

Sources said the jawans also grabbed hold of the major and started beating him,while three others who had reportedly attacked the jawans fled from the spot when given a chase by around 40 jawans. This has however been denied by the Army HQ.

Today morning,the Army officers reported back to duty. In the afternoon,General Officer Commanding 3 Division,Major General A L Chavan,visited the spot and talked to the jawans and officers of the unit.

While a senior police officer was also rushed to Nyoma,the Army did not let him interfere. Deputy Superintendent of Police,Leh,Abdul Khaliq told The Indian Express that the Army did not inform the police. “Our officers in the area informed us about the scuffle within the unit,’’ he said.

Leh Superintendent of Police Vivek Gupta said they had not registered a case. However,he confirmed that he had gone to Nyoma after he came to know about the incident.

(With ENS inputs from New Delhi)

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