Major Aditya Kumar

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On August 15, 2018, when President Ram Nath Kovind approved 131 Gallantry Awards, one of them was conferred to Major Aditya Kumar of the army’s 10 Garhwal Rifles.

Awarded the third-highest gallantry award, Shaurya Chakra for valour and courage, Major Aditya in Kashmir has FIR registered in his name filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police in the firing case of Ganovpora village of south Kashmir’s Shopian.

On the cold morning of January 27, 2018, Ganovpora village witnessed protests against the killing of three militants and a teenager in the nearby village, Chaigund on the third day. As the 44 Battalion of army led by Major Aditya reached the village, the flag became the issue and was later removed. This infuriated the youth of the area and they pelted stones. However locals say army left the spot and returned an hour later with larger force.

In the ensuing battle of stones, army retaliated by firing live ammunition resulting in casualties where two, Javid Ahmad and Suhail Ahmad were declared dead on the spot and one, Rayees Ahmad lost battle of life in the hospital.

Responding to the crises, police registered FIR and divisional administration ordered magisterial enquiry.

The case details, registered under sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) against Aditya, reads that the Major opened fire on a group of protesters. Army in its version defended the action and said that they had to open fire in self-defence to “prevent the lynching of a Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) by a mob”.

Giving details, the army said that administrative convoy was passing through the village when it came under “unprovoked and intense stone pelting by a group of 100-120 stone pelters” and “considering the extreme gravity of the situation, the army was constrained to open fire in self defence to prevent lynching of the JCO and burning of Government vehicle by the mob.”

As Police registered FIR, father of Major, also an army officer, Lt Col Karamveer Singh moved to Supreme Court for quashing the FIR. He filed a petition regarding the local police had filed a FIR against his son, who was performing his “bonafide duties”. It added that lodging a FIR only against Major Aditya and not against the protestors “exposes the extremely sinister design, by which the entire effort is to somehow attack and breakdown the morale of the forces”.

The Supreme Court accepted the petition and restrained from taking any action against the officer. During the hearings, the Centre argued the state government cannot lodge an FIR against serving army personnel when the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in the force in the state.

Besides Major, a rifleman Aurangzeb Khan too was conferred with the gallantry award, posthumously.

Khan, a resident of Poonch was abducted from Pulwama when he had just boarded a vehicle for home. Later his body was found at Gusoo, Pulwama. He reportedly was part of the operation that killed Hizbul Mujahideen’s Sameer ‘Tiger’ in an encounter in April, 2018.

A Delhi based newspaper reported that Khan’s friendship with a local woman, which is against the SOP led to his abduction and then murder. His killing led army to reiterate that its men should avoid friendship, locally.

–Saima Bhat

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