Access to exclusive documents has now for the first time revealed the sequence of events which led to the unprecedented brawl between officers and jawans of 226 Field Regiment in Nyoma in Ladakh in May last year. The three-member inquiry was conducted by Brig Ajay Talwar, Colonel Ajit Singh and Colonel NK Kanotra.
The documents are a part of the Army’s Court of Inquiry held after the shocking incident. As a result of the fall-out of this inquiry, an unprecedented 168 troops of the regiment will be facing a general court martial. They include four officers, including the commanding officer of the regiment, Col P Kadam, 17 Junior Commissioned Officrs and 147 jawans.
The documents accessed include crucial statements of key witnesses in the court of inquiry which has led the Army to find out the exact reasons behind the break-down of discipline in the regiment which was deployed for field firing in Ladakh. These statements include that of the Commanding Officer, Col Prasad Kadam, wife of a Major, a jawan accused of rape, depositions of medical experts and a crucial report of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Chandigarh.
The most crucial of all is the testimony of the wife of a Major who has alleged that one jawan of the regiment attempted to rape her in the absence of her husband. This alleged attempted rape has become the bed-rock of the inquiry and it has been suggested by various witnesses that everything else that followed in the regiment was as a result of this.
The lady, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, has described in detail how the jawan detailed as Sahayak to her husband tried to rape her. She stated this in categorical terms when specifically asked by members of the Court of Inquiry. The lady also told the court that while fighting off the jawan she had hit him with a torch as a result of which he bled. The evidence of bleeding on the lady’s garments were sent to CFSL Chandigarh for matching the samples given by the Sahayak and the report of the laboratory stated that the possibility of the samples coming from the lady and the Sahayak could not be excluded.
In his deposition to the court, the Jawan accused of attempting to rape the lady has stoutly denied the same and has attributed the bleeding and blood stain to an injury sustained while moving he luggage of the officer and his wife. He has instead alleged that he entered the room to switch off the kerosene heater and found the door unlatched. He alleges that the lady was changing her clothes at the time, without securing the door, and got angry with him and abused him. The Sahayak has alleged in his statement that he was beaten up by three officers later in the evening. It is alleged that it was this beating and denial of initial medical aid to the jawan which enraged other jawans of the regiment and caused them to turn on their officers.
Witnesses have also testified that enraged jawans raised slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Inqulab Zindabad, 226 Field Regiment ki Jai on the occasion. They also raised slogans like ‘Raksha Mantri ko Bulaya jae” and “Media ko bulaya jae” when two senior officers visited to pacify the angry jawans. They also demanded that the three offices who beat the jawan should be handed over to them.
During the course of the inquiry the CO, Col Prasad Kadam, also revealed that there was permission to move the wives of the officers only till Darbuk and not till Nyoma. Col Kadam admitted that he allowed them to be moved to Nyoma because they would have been “alone” in Darbuk. Col Kadam also gave details of how he was assaulted by troops of his regiment and hit with stones till he lost consciousness.
Various witnesses have made statements to the effect that three officers badly thrashed the Sahayak. It is, perhaps, keeping in mind all these circumstances that the Army has ordered the court martial of these officers along with the CO.
Meanwhile, the Army has ordered the Summary of Evidence in this case as the next step leading, eventually, to a trial of all the accused officers and jawans.