The Indian Army has reportedly commissioned a Court of Inquiry (CoI) to probe the events leading to the death of three civilians. These civilians allegedly died during questioning by Army officials following an ambush on two Army vehicles by terrorists in Poonch earlier this week.
On Thursday, an ambush near Topa Pir resulted in the death of four Army personnel and left three others injured. They were en route from Bufliaz in Poonch to Thanamandi in Rajouri, where a unit of the Rashtriya Rifles is stationed.
The bodies of two soldiers were reportedly found mutilated. Despite extensive cordon and search operations launched by the Army, the militants have not been traced so far.
Out of eight civilians detained from the Topa Pir area by security forces for interrogation related to the ambush on Friday morning, three were found dead at night, causing significant uproar in the region.
The remaining five civilians were admitted with injuries to a government hospital in Rajouri. The eight men, their relatives alleged, had been tortured during interrogation.
The J&K administration refrained from commenting on the reason behind the demise of three civilians on Saturday, but stated that legal proceedings had begun and compensation had been declared.
The Army said the matter was under investigation, and that it was “committed to extending full support and cooperation in the conduct of investigations".
The Army’s internal probe will be conducted by a separate formation based in Akhnoor – it’s also part of the Nagrota-based XVI Corps which is responsible for areas south of the Pir Panjal range – and will include other agencies like the Jammu and Kashmir Police to ensure impartiality, Indian Express reported.
The fast-track investigation is expected to conclude within 72 hours, and it will probably include probe into the ambush.
Further, there is likely to be a change of command at various levels in XVI Corps. While a few of these were planned earlier, some could take place in response to the killing of civilians.
This could include moving out two senior officers from their current appointments because of lack of command and control, even as the inquiry will establish if lapses on their part, if any, merit punishment.
However, there is no official word on this and no posting orders to this effect have been issued so far.
Furthermore, the current XVI Corps Commander, Lt General Sandeep Jain, is set to transition to the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun to serve as Commandant. His position will be filled by Lt General Navin Sachdeva. Interestingly, Lt General Sachdeva also belongs to the Garhwal Rifles, the regiment associated with the Rashtriya Rifles unit in Thanamandi.
Following the ambush, authorities have indicated that the region is expected to experience a rise in troop deployment, with a brigade from a reserve formation being summoned.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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