The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jawan cracks, shoots mates

Srinagar, Jan. 25: Four paramilitary troopers were gunned down on the eve of Republic Day in heavily fortified Srinagar ' not by militants looking to disrupt the celebrations but by a colleague with frayed nerves.

CRPF constable Avtar Chand’s murderous act today swivelled the spotlight back on a syndrome increasingly worrying army and paramilitary brass: jawans cracking under the strain of a life in the shadow of militancy and training their guns on colleagues, including seniors.

In the past three years, violence among soldiers has been recorded, on an average, every 13th day. Many involved “fragging” ' the killing or attempted killing of an officer by a junior. The paramilitary hasn’t suffered any less.

Avtar Chand’s nerves snapped after an argument with colleagues at the makeshift camp for the CRPF’s 96 Battalion at Firdaus cinema. He left four dead and a fifth critically injured.

“Avtar Chand was overpowered and taken into custody. He is being questioned,” said force spokesman Rakesh Kumar Singh. The constable is from Hoshiarpur, Punjab.

The troops at the camp are involved in counter-insurgency operations in Srinagar’s downtown areas. The camp witnessed a suicide attack last November in which two militants and three troopers were killed.

The CRPF recently asked the Centre for more benefits for its troopers and a better compensation package for families of personnel who die while on duty. It said the jawans are frustrated because army personnel, often doing similar jobs in militancy pockets, are better looked after.

The armed forces, too, have circulated among their commanders reports of psychologists and defence analysts on tackling mental disorders among troops.

A soldier suicide has been reported almost every fifth day for the past three years, the frustration being worst among those battling militants in Kashmir and the Northeast for a long time.

Statistics placed by defence minister Pranab Mukherjee in Parliament last month show 66 soldier suicides in 2002, 96 in 2003, 100 in 2004 and 71 till November in 2005.

The number of “assault and affray” cases ' including battering of officers or violence among troops ' was 95 between 2002 and 2004 and 18 till November in 2005.

A separate table on murders shows six killings in 2002, 16 in 2003, 18 in 2004 and 16 till November in 2005.

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