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Slaughter in stress zone

Srinagar, Nov. 28: Stress, the silent assassin that stalks workplaces, has struck with devastating force in a conflict zone, transforming a young jawan into a killing machine that mowed down seven of his mates.

CRPF constable Samarendra Deka, in his early twenties, killed seven colleagues in Kashmir's Baramulla last night apparently because he was punished for missing a roll call.

The killing spree in the CRPF 152 battalion headquarters, 54 km from here, ended when guards gunned down Deka, who had been with the force for only a year.

The nerves of jawans in low-intensity but long-drawn combat belts are known to snap at seemingly minor instances of provocation like denial of leave. But rarely have men in uniform acted the way Deka has done in response to disciplinary action, indicating that stress in the security forces is a malaise that has struck roots deeper than thought earlier.

The exact reason why Deka lost control has yet to be established. But CRPF director-general J.K. Sinha said Deka, who was in Jammu and Kashmir on his first posting, was reprimanded and given three days of fatigue duty (a form of punishment) for missing the evening roll call on Saturday.

But Deka, a resident of Kamrup in Assam, turned up in time for the next roll call, and gave no inkling of the gruesome act about to unfold, a senior CRPF officer said.

Unconfirmed reports said Deka turned the gun on his colleagues while some of them were sleeping. Among those killed is company commander Sadu Ram, with whom Deka reportedly had an altercation over his failure to attend the roll call.

'The soldier sprayed gunfire from his automatic rifle on his colleagues. We don't know the details as immediate witnesses who could have provided us vital information are no more,' CRPF inspector-general Ranjeet Sinha told The Telegraph.

Sources said authorities have come across a letter ' either written by Deka or received by him ' in Assamese. They added that efforts are on to find someone to translate the contents of the letter.

Frustration ' usually traced to denial of leave ' has often pushed soldiers to extreme reactions: one such crisis broke in Mumbai when Raj Namdeo, a CISF jawan, killed his superior in the international airport last year. In the same year, a CRPF constable killed two of his colleagues in an indoor stadium in Kashmir.

Studies have indicated that continued distance from families, discharge of duties under extremely hostile conditions and the absence of recreational facilities are the main causes of such incidents. Psychologists and counsellors have been employed by the army and the paramilitary forces to resolve the problem.

The CRPF is sending additional director-general Shyam Mehra from Delhi to inquire into last night's incident.

The Union minister of state for home, Sriprakash Jaiswal, said the jawan may have been suffering from frustration or tension.

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