The Supreme Court has temporarily put on hold investigation into the killing of civilians by Army firing in Shopian, Kashmir, specifically into the role of Major Aditya Kumar in the incident. It is important for reconciliation in the overwrought Valley that justice be meted out if the three youths were indeed killed wrongfully. It is equally important that till peace is restored, till the Army is needed to uphold law and order and defend India’s territorial integrity in Jammu & Kashmir, the Army’s morale is not undermined. The firing that killed the civilians, the Army has stressed, was in response to intense provocation and rapidly deteriorating security conditions at the site—locals were pelting stones at the Army convoy that Kumar was in charge of, as it was passing through Ganovpora village in Shopian. The firing also came in the backdrop of a police officer getting lynched by a mob in Srinagar—though the official probe concluded that the officer fired in panic after being questioned about why he was taking pictures of congregation at a mosque—and an Army officer being killed by militants.
The apex court halted the probe after the J&K government said that Kumar was not named as an accused in the FIR registered by the state police, but there was no certainty that he will not be named as an accused. The Centre contended that since the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was in force in the state, the state police couldn’t anyway register a case against Kumar without clearance from the Union government. The security situation in J&K is fraught and tensions boil over frequently. In such a context, any issue that demoralises the Army will dash any hope of eventual reconciliation. The Army contends its personnel fired in self-defence. The number of civilians killed in confrontation with the Indian Army, when compared with corresponding figures from elsewhere in the world—particularly in West Asia—would show that the Indian Army is not one prone to reckless retaliation, let alone excesses.