The army maintained silence on allegations that its soldiers had stormed two mosques in Pulwama in south Kashmir on Saturday and forced worshippers to chant “Jai Shri Ram” but security sources confirmed on Monday that an officer had been removed from duty for his alleged role.
Neither the army nor police have issued any official statement despite allegations by villagers that have been picked up by a battery of Kashmiri politicians, including three former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Ghulam NabiAzad. The leaders have voiced concern and sought a probe.
A security official said an “officer” had been removed from operational duty. But the source did not reveal the officer’s name or rank.
Altaf Ahmad Bhat, the chairman of a civil society group in Zaddora village and who described himself as an eyewitness, had said on Sunday that senior army officers had apologised to the villagers.
Bhat had added that the officers had informed the villagers that a major allegedly involved in the incident had been removed.
On Monday, Bhat told TheTelegraph: “A new major who has taken over visited our village today and expressed regrets about the incident in front of a crowd. That happened on the lawns of my house. Several police officers were accompanying him. There was, in fact, a small protest here after which they came. The media, however, was not allowed to come inside."
“I told them that we have never seen such an incident before and it should never happen again,” he added.
The villagers claimed that the officers assured them that the matter was being investigated and promised action. The Srinagar-based Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulama (MMU), an apex body of Islamic organisations, expressed “serious concern” over the alleged incident and condemned it. In a statement, the MMUsaid the silence maintained by the authorities was unacceptable.