The fight between the officers and jawans at a strategic base near China border, police investigations reveal, was much more than – what the army would like us to believe- a “minor scuffle” TASAVUR MUSHTAQ reports
The violence in Nyoma, around 150 km from Leh, last week, constituted one of the most serious discipline-related incidents in the Army in recent years. The situation turned volatile in a strategic base, when in a unit of Army’s 226 Field Regiment (Arty) of 114 Infantry Brigade Tangtse, soldiers and officers were seen fighting each other, putting serious question mark on various levels of operations.
As reported by The Indian Express, Jammu & Kashmir police has come up with its report of investigation indicating the fight which the army termed as a “minor scuffle” to be much more than that.
The report, based on police investigations, suggests that the incident was triggered by the “over-reaction’’ of officers to a sewadar’s (personal valet’s) “inadvertent entry” into a bathroom where the wife of a major Sharma was having a bath.
Sources termed the incident as the trust deficit between officers and jawans, including failure of the command structure.
In its official statement on May 12, the army called the incident a “minor scuffle in Ladakh region”. “The entire episode can at worst be seen as an isolated act of indiscipline. It can in no way be termed as mutiny,” the statement said. It also said that a court of inquiry to investigate into the circumstances under which the incident took place has commenced.
Police in its report, says that the troops “conducted a search operation” for the hiding officers across Nyoma, and “shouted slogans and abuses over loudspeakers throughout the night.”
Later an army spokesman reacting to the newspaper reports described as “speculative and coloured” reports that Jammu and Kashmir Police were investigating into clash between a group of army officers and jawans in an artillery regiment near Leh.
“Army is not aware of any such investigation/report prepared by J&K Police. In fact, SSP Leh in a statement said that the police have not registered any case,” a defence spokesperson said.
Report unveiling the series of events say that on May 10 morning, Sewak Barber Suman Sarkar had inadvertently entered the bathroom (which was not locked) where the wife of the Major, he was attached to, was taking a bath. He immediately ran out. The major’s wife narrated the incident in a “lighter vein” at lunch but her husband and three other majors called Sarkar and beat him up in the presence of orderlies. Major Ankur Tewari, Major Kapil Malik, Major Thomas Verghese, Major A D Kanade and Major Sharma himself joined in the beating, The Hindu quoting some undescribed documents reported. The soldiers were at the firing range when the incident happened.
Seriously injured, officers did not permit anyone to attend to Sarkar. He was left unattended for around four hours. When the jawans returned to the unit camp, this incident aroused great resentment against the officers of the unit.
Sensing trouble, some NCOs (Non Commissioned Officers) and jawans brought matter to the notice of the Commanding Officer, Col Prasad Kadam.
The CO immediately rushed to the camp. The visit triggered another round of altercation, this time between the Major and his two other colleagues and CO. Finally it was a divide with the CO and soldiers on one side and the three officers on the other side. The three officers were reportedly beaten. Four soldiers suffered injuries including CO Colonel Kadam. They were hospitalised.
On seeing the condition of the CO, the jawans were provoked by the indifferent attitude of the officers towards their colleague. They (jawans) started pelting stones. Some of them rescued the CO and took him to the camp.
Enraged and emboldened, the jawans moved towards the officer’s mess armed with lathis, iron rods and stones. Rumors about the death of the Sewadar added fuel to the fire. The jawans started attacking officers in the camp by pelting stones and shouting slogans against their misbehavior towards them. Sensing the gravity of the situation, all the five Major rank officers rushed to safety under the cover of darkness. The jawans ransacked the unit officer’s mess and started chasing the officers.
A group of jawans (numbering about 50 to 60) armed with iron rods, lathis and knives boarded an army vehicle to search for the officers. The jawans didn’t possess any firearms during the scuffle or the search operations.