The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army parade but in shame

Srinagar, June 27: Two soldiers have been paraded semi-naked through the streets and tonsured in Kashmir for an alleged attempt to molest a girl.

The public retribution — the first such in 17 years of insurgency — occurred in Bandipore, 65 km north of Srinagar, on Tuesday but details began trickling out only today.

The duo, who were rescued by police, have been arrested and a case of attempted rape has been lodged. The army said the charge has been “cooked up” and has ordered a probe.

Conflicting versions are doing the rounds. A relative of the 17-year-old girl said the soldiers in plainclothes had stepped into a house in Kunan village seeking food.

But an Associated Press report said the two posed as militants while trying to grab the girl.

“They entered their house looking for food. Then they asked the girl’s mother to leave the room, which she did. The two then caught hold of the girl and tried to outrage her modesty, but she resisted and raised an alarm,” the relative said.

Drawn by her cry for help, neighbours overpowered the duo. The villagers then beat up the soldiers, stripped them, shaved their heads and paraded them through the village market.

“The two armymen were beaten mercilessly,” Mir Imtiaz, the additional superintendent of police, Bandipore, said. As a lathi-charge proved futile, the police had to fire in the air to rescue the soldiers, he added.

The army has filed a counter-FIR for attempted murder against those who beat up the jawans and instituted a court of inquiry.

“The case of sexual assault has been cooked up and the locals were incited by militants. We have lodged a counter-FIR of attempted murder against the people who had thrashed our men,” said Colonel Manjinder Singh, the army spokesperson.

“We have taken the matter seriously and an inquiry will be conducted to ascertain the truth.”

Brigadier V. Garg, the commander of the area, said the soldiers were taken hostage by some residents of Kunan, where they had gone to collect intelligence. “The two soldiers were on patrol duty when civilians took them hostage,” he added.

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