AHMEDABAD: Former chief of Army Staff, General (retd) V P Malik today demanded withdrawal of an FIR registered by the Jammu and Kashmir Police against an Army officer in connection with the recent Shopian firing incident.
Saying that a soldier has the right to defend himself, the former Army chief termed the J&K police's decision to book Major Aditya Kumar as "totally uncalled for and wrong", as the FIR was lodged without any inquiry into the incident.
"The decision to lodge an FIR against a soldier was totally uncalled for. Due to the stone pelting by the mob, one JCO was injured and eventually evacuated from the spot in a helicopter. The mob pelted huge stones on three to four army vehicles, which were separated," Malik told reporters at a press conference while referring to the incident.
Two civilians were killed when Army personnel fired at a stone-pelting mob in Ganovpora village in Shopian on January 27, prompting the chief minister to order an inquiry into the incident.
The FIR was registered against personnel of 10 Garhwal Rifles, including Major Aditya Kumar, under sections 302 (punishment for murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Ranbir Penal Code.
"The mob even tried to snatch a rifle. Only then the Army personnel opened fire in self defence. If you have that right, then I too have that right. But, it is utterly wrong to lodge an FIR (against Army), and showing a soldier, who was not even present at the spot, as an accused is totally wrong," General (retd) Malik said.
"While stone-pelters were let go (by the state government), saying they have not done anything wrong, then why an FIR against a soldier? It was wrong and uncalled for decision. If a citizen has the right to defend himself, then why not a soldier? This FIR should be withdrawn. If not, then we will talk about AFSPA," he added.
Major Aditya Kumar's father Karamveer Singh last week moved the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the FIR against his son.
Malik was accompanied by former Air Chief Marshal, Arup Raha, and former Vice Admiral, Pradeep Kaushiva at the press conference.
The trio were invited here by the Air Force Association, Gujarat, for the "Flying Officer Nirmal Jit Singh Sekhon Annual Lecture Series".
Commenting on the Sunjwan Army camp attack in Jammu, the former Army chief said it was not possible to stop such incidents mainly due to the topography of the border as well as the support being extended by some locals to terrorists.
"The worst part is that some locals are helping the infiltrators. If there was no local support, those (terrorists) who have carried out attack in Jammu may not have succeeded...Such things are happening for decades and it is almost impossible to eliminate this activity," the former Army chief said.
Agreeing with Malik, former Vice Admiral Pradeep Kaushiva said it was up to the government to deal with those locals who are supporting terrorists.
"We cannot stop infiltration till the local support is there. Now, this is a political issue and it has to be handled politically," he said.
Cautioning about China's aggressive moves near the border, the former Army chief stressed the need to build infrastructure, such as roads and air fields.
Malik, however, also said it does not matter if China builds one or two posts near Doklam where Indian and the Chinese troops had engaged in a bitter stand-off last year.
"It does not matter if China builds one or two posts (near Doklam), because we dominate China from both the sides, be it India or Bhutan. As we have asked them not to build roads, they set up posts, which does not hold much significance," he said.
While avoiding a direct reply to a question about the controversy surrounding the Rafale deal, former Air chief marshal Raha said the government should not stop any procurement process, as it will only impact the capabilities of the armed forces.
"Even if there is a mistake, you take care of that but don't shut down the procurement process by making the issue much bigger than it should be," he told reporters during the joint press conference.
Delivering a lecture at the annual event after addressing the presser, Malik said political leaders need to "know more about how military works" to bridge the gap between them.
He said the present Union budget was "not sufficient" if seen against the requirement of the forces.
"Budget is a big handicap for us. This is the reason why private firms are not coming forward," he said.
Stressing the urgent need to stop dependency on imports of the military hardware, Malik said despite "Prime Minister's push for 'Make in India', it will take another 10 to 15 years to make up for our arms deficiencies".
Echoing Malik, Raha, in his lecture, stressed the need to "rejuvenate Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)" to meet the requirements.