Bringing much relief to the tense Valley, the Union Ministry of Defence spokesperson denied the reports claiming that militants had kidnapped a soldier from his home in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir on Friday. But there is much that remains sketchy in the absence of concrete proof of the soldier’s safety, especially in view of the initial narrative of events and that being fostered by the government.
“Clarification. Media reports of the abduction of a serving Army soldier on leave from Qazipora, Chadoora, Budgam are incorrect.
The initial reports, however, give sufficient cause for alarm
Bhat, who is posted with the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry Division, was suspected to have been kidnapped by militants from Budgam, just a week after
The report of his alleged abduction came late Friday evening, via news agency GNS. It said that a joint team of the state police and army rushed to the spot to ascertain the details. A massive search operation was reportedly launched in Qazipora, Chadoora and the borders of the neighboring Pulwama district to trace Bhat’s whereabouts, and a joint team of police and army personnel was sent to his village.
As to how the abduction is believed to have unfolded: A group of two or three armed militants barged into Bhat’s house around 8:45 PM on Friday, Deputy Inspector General of Police (Central Kashmir) VK Birdi told The New Indian Express. “The militants abducted the soldier at gunpoint and fled from the spot,” he added in a claim that was later unfounded.
Terror begets terror in Kashmir
Terrorists in the valley have constantly targeted Army personnel visiting their home while being on official leave. This became a way for them to get back at security forces, who have resorted to
The last time a soldier was abducted in the Valley was in June 2018, when militants kidnapped and murdered 44 Rashtriya Rifles soldier Aurangzeb
who was on his way home for Eid. Aurangzeb’s bullet-ridden body was later discovered in Pulwama’s Gooso village on June 14. The Indian government awarded him the Shaurya Chakra posthumously.
Earlier, in May 2017, a young army officer Lt Fayaz was kidnapped by militants from his relative’s residence in Shopian district, where he had gone to attend marriage function of his relative. He was later killed by the militants. The same year, terrorists shot dead BSF constable Mohammad Ramzan Parray after dragging him out from his house.
This is a lived reality which soldiers posted in Kashmir have to confront
Why it matters
The latest reports of Bhat’s alleged disappearance come at a time of heightened tension and border security in India-administered Kashmir.
It came within a month of the deadly Pulwama attack which has resulted in the deaths of over 45 soldiers of the Indian Army already. Just a fortnight ago, IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was held by the Pakistani military after a retaliatory strike into
The plot is thickened in Bhat’s case, due to the lack of evidence.
While Bhat was confirmed to be on leave from February 26 until March 30, as per the Hindustan Times, his family has claimed that the young soldier had come home for a month-long vacation on February 26, but was taken away on Friday by a few men. Local news reports corroborated this, saying Bhat had been whisked away by a group of gunmen at around 10 PM.
The New Indian Express noted in its report, “Although no militant group has owned the responsibility of the kidnapping yet, police suspect the hand of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in the abduction of
The Defence Ministry has, however, chosen to go with the former version, claiming Bhat is on leave and fine at home.
Is there any truth to these earlier reports which made a note of the alleged event as its first responders, and corroborated his family’s account of the young soldier’s peril? Surely there must be reasonable proof for the Centre to have dismissed these claims. But judging by its recent reticence, the Nirmala Sitharaman-led Ministry isn’t likely to furnish it.
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius