Srinagar, Oct. 31: A soldier gunned down a lieutenant colonel here today, making him the senior-most army officer to have been killed by a junior this year.
Lt Colonel Saket Saxena was inside his camp at Harwan, on the outskirts of Srinagar, when his junior from 28 Rashtriya Rifles opened fire at him.
This is the fourth incident of fragging — the term used for killing or attempting to kill a senior officer in US military parlance — to have taken place in the Valley in the past 11 days. Eight army personnel have died in these attacks.
Army spokesman Col H.K. Juneja said S.C. Behra, who turned the gun on Lt Col Saxena, has been arrested. “A court of inquiry has been ordered and we are trying to find out why the soldier killed his officer,” he added.
Superintendent of police, Srinagar (east), Anand Jain said a case has been registered, but legal formalities have to be completed before Behra is turned over to the police.
In 1999, Col Balbir Singh had died after a soldier attacked his vehicle. Several other senior officers have been killed in the 16 years of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.
On October 21 this year, a soldier shot dead three colleagues and injured another at the Nariyan camp in Jammu’s Rajouri district. He was injured when he tried to kill himself. Two days later, a jawan killed two colleagues in the same district. On October 29, a signal man shot dead a hawaldar.
Army sources say at least 17 of its men have died in incidents where soldiers ran amok this year. “The deaths resulting from suicides are also on the rise,” an officer said.
The problem has reached the paramilitary forces, too. The CRPF, which has 64 battalions deployed across the insurgency-wracked state, lost at least nine men this year.
Army sources blame the deaths on “stress and fatigue’’.
“In several cases, a minor altercation was the cause. Our boys work under extremely harsh conditions but their problems back home are harsher at times. Inadequate leave also takes its toll,” the officer said.
Alarmed by such incidents, the army has taken various measures to check the trend.
“We have adopted a buddy system where a soldier always gives company to his friend and shares his problems. In case of need, the soldier is even shifted to rehab homes,” the officer said.
The CRPF appears to have gone a step ahead. It has introduced yoga and “domestic-intervention programmes” to help its stressed-out troops cope with tension.