Let me begin at the very beginning by expressing my utmost and deepest sympathies with the families of those three young stone pelters – Suhail Lone, Javid Bhat and Rayees Ahmed in their 20s who were killed in firing by army soldiers in Shopian in South Kashmir. The families lives stands completely devastated and nothing can compensate for the invaluable loss that they have suffered with which they have to cope the rest of their lives. The families of those three young stone pelters must now come out of their grief slowly and make sure that they don’t spend their whole life just grieving which will just serve no purpose at all.
It is an unpalatable truth that these three young stone pelters are themselves responsible for inviting death for themselves. Why did they along with around 300 people attack a military convoy comprising people-and-goods carriers of Indian Army which was passing through the village of Ganowpora village in Shopian? Why these Kashmiri youths keep attacking army vehicles and soldiers? Why don’t they understand that soldiers too have weapons with which they too can retaliate which can have most dangerous consequences as we saw here?
Why without any provocation from soldiers do Kashmiri youths start attacking them with stones, sticks and other weapons? Why is restraint by soldiers taken as weakness by these Kashmiri youths? Why are those leaders who provoke such youths to indulge in stone pelting not taken in custody and why are they not prosecuted promptly?
Why are cases immediately withdrawn against these youths who indulge in stone pelting? Are they not being encouraged to time and again indulge in stone pelting? Who is responsible for this? None other than the state government as also the Centre with whose support the Jammu and Kashmir state government is running so freely here!
Why did the Chief Minister permit FIR to be registered against Major Aditya and those soldiers who only acted in self defence? Why is it ignored that Major Aditya was not even present there at the scene of attack and was very far away as reported in news channels? Why is it expected that Kashmiri youths will attack soldiers with weapons and stones and the soldiers will just not retaliate fearing that some stone pelters may be killed?
Do soldiers not have the right to private self defence? Do soldiers only have the obligation of keep facing stones and other weapons mercilessly and yet not retaliate in any manner? Do soldiers not enjoy the protection under Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA)?
Why is it ignored that these soldiers who were attacked by stone pelters were not firing at some innocent people mercilessly which certainly would have been an offence but were just transferring an Army unit’s luggage and skeletal staff from Point A to Point B when a couple of the vehicles got separated from the main body of the convoy? Why is it ignored that Kashmiri civilians have no right to even attack leave alone kill our brave soldiers who fearlessly discharge their duty? Why no FIR against them lodged by police who attacked the soldiers without any valid reason whatsoever who only resorted to lodging FIR against Army soldiers? Is this fair?
How can it be ignored that Army was compelled to lodge counter FIR when police failed to do this? How can it be ignored that a Junior Commissioned Officer who tried to reason with the 300 strong mob was himself attacked and hit by projectile and collapsed and the mob wanted to straightaway murder him and the soldiers had to fire to save his life? How can it be ignored that the Standard Operating Procedures were adhered to in this case as has been testified by none other than the Northern Army Commander – Lt Gen D Anbu?
How can it be ignored that none other than Lt Gen D Anbu has himself told news agency ANI that the army had conducted its own probe into the conclusion that the soldiers had to resort to firing after they were “provoked to the ultimate”? How can what such a senior Army officer is saying be ignored so easily? How can it be ignored that the JCO was attacked very brutally and the mob wanted to virtually kill him which necessitated the firing by the soldiers?
Why has State Government allowed police to lodge an FIR against Army soldiers who were just doing their duty and were attacked without any reason whatsoever? Why Centre did not stop State Government from doing so? Why Centre is not acting even after a national outrage has broken out over the lodging of FIR against those soldiers who in order to save the life of the JCO and their own lives had no option but to fire?
Why is it ignored that Major Aditya who was leading the convoy was at least 200 metres ahead and was not present at the incident spot? Why still the name of Major Aditya was lodged in the FIR against the Army? Why is it ignored that seven Army men were injured and extensive damage was caused to 11 vehicles?
Why the Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is not speaking out in defence of Army? Why did she not strongly object to lodging of FIR against soldiers who were just acting in self-defence which cannot be a crime under any law? Why even the PM Narendra Modi is silent on this?
It is not Sanjeev Sirohi alone or Sageer Khan alone or Amit Sharma alone or a group of lawyers in Meerut alone who are angry at what has happened with the soldiers in Kashmir! The whole nation is enraged with the gross injustice that is being meted out to these brave soldiers who were attacked themselves! It is because of these brave soldiers that India stands united as one nation and it is they who go all out to help Kashmiris stranded in floods without any grudge whatsoever! But see what they get in return!
Not surprising that many lawyers in different parts of India as we see in Meerut have also lodged their strongest protest which they have pointed out also in the memorandum that they have submitted to the DM of Meerut – Anil Dhingra stating that if the Centre does not withdraw the FIR lodged against Maj Aditya or against the soldiers who are all victims and not perpetrators of any crime then they will be compelled to go on hunger strike! Centre must wake up now and do the requisite damage control exercise by promptly getting the FIR withdrawn against Maj Aditya and those soldiers who were themselves attacked! They were not the attackers rather they bore the brunt of attack of more than 300 mob and yet retaliated with the minimum force under very compelling conditions!
How can all this be ignored? If Centre does not act in time the protest against it can like in the case of the film Padmaavat become nation wide and this time the representation will be from all sections and all religions and all castes of our society who think nationally and love their brave soldiers more than anything else! Can Centre again do the huge folly of ignoring all this?
It is for Centre now to decide what course of action it wants to take – appease its coalition partner PDP or keeping in view the national interests and the provocating circumstances under which the soldiers were compelled to open fire order immediate withdrawal of FIR! If soldiers had indulged in unprovoked firing and killed about 100 or 200 or even if three or two or one, I would have been the first to demand the strongest possible action against them! But that is not the case! So I stand with these soldiers and with Maj Aditya in all possible respects and so do most of our countrymen which is quite perceptible and naturally so as they were compelled to fire to save the life of the badly injured JCO and also of their own!
How can this be deemed to be a crime? Under no circumstances can such acts be deemed to be a crime! It is most shameful and disgraceful that these Kashmiri leaders never blame the stone pelters who in most cases are provoked by pro-Pakistani lobby and paid also and never do anything to bring them in the national mainstream!
All said and done, if Indian soldiers don’t restraint themselves even in such provocating circumstances there can be blood all over Kashmir! Is this is what Kashmiri and separatists leaders want? It is for them to decide what is best for Kashmiris!
Why the leaders of political parties or of separatists or their sons and daughters never indulge in stone pelting? Why only youth of middle class families indulge in it? Why the children of Syed Salaluddin and other terror leaders and separatist leaders becoming doctors, engineers and government servants and not stone pelters like other ordinary Kashmiris?
Such terror leaders, separatists and politicians have made stone pelting and anti-India activity a big business industry getting money secretly from Paskistan and undoubtedly are the biggest enemies of Kashmiris and not the soldiers of India who are there to always protect them and always stand by them as they do when some flood comes or any other calamity comes like earthquake etc! Who can deny this? This is what Kashmiri youths must realize and save themselves from being used as a mere pawn in the hands of pro-Pakistani lobby! Centre must act now and withdraw FIR against Major Aditya and those soldiers who have been named in the FIR because what they have done is not a crime from any angle! Can any jurist question this? Every soldier of Indian Army has every right to act in self defence and fire whenever they find that it is absolutely necessary to save the invaluable lives of their fellow soldiers or their own lives!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.