Bomdila Police-Army Incident

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The Bomdila Police-Army Incident occurred on 2 November 2018, in Bomdila, when two soldiers belonging to the 2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion, a specialized Indian Army unit, were arrested, and allegedly beaten by the constabulary of the Arunachal Pradesh Police. The police alleged that the soldiers were involved in a fight and misbehaved with few women while the army alleged the soldiers were arrested without reasons.[1][2][3] The soldiers after their release were hospitalized in the Military Hospital  in Tenga for grievous injuries.[4][5]

On 3 November 2018, the day after the arrest of the soldiers, Colonel Firdosh P Dubash, Commanding Officer (CO) of 2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion (2 ASB) met with the Raja Bhantia,  Superintendent  of Police (SP) West Kameng District, Arunachal Pradesh, and informs the SP that the vicious battering, and humiliation of his soldiers has roiled his command, and that the pain and dishonor vicariously felt by the officers and men of 2nd Arunachal Scouts, is a source of concern to him. The CO also, in blunt language, warns the SHO that he will not tolerate police beating his men and that there will be retribution if it were to occur again.[3][5]

Following the meeting an edited version of the video recording showing the CO warning the police, sans the context, was disseminated by Sonal Swaroop, Deputy Commissioner, and the Superintendent of Police, to local and national media, and the national associations of the Indian Administrative services (IAS) and the Indian Police Service Association. These lobbying arm of serving IAS officers, and over 4000 serving Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, tweets and retweets the accusations, and demand that government take stern action against Colonel Dubash.[6][7] The Association tweets and retweets, which go viral, is supplemented by formal letter on Government of India letter head by Rakesh Srivastava, President of IAS association, to the Defence Secretary. Srivastava's letter while cataloguing the accusation against the army unit for their illegal vandalism of public property and humiliation, urges the defence Secretary of Govt. of India, to ensure deterrent punishment to the officers and  men of 2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion.[8]

The accusation against the army unit, and its commanding officer, by the IAS and IPS association, which are repeated in the national media, cause outrage, alarm, and disappointment in the armed Forces.Former Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), concerned that the incident in Bomdila has transmuted into a national security event, deplore and denounce the involvement of the IAS and IPS associations, and the accusation by serving IAS and IPS officers against the army unit and its CO.[2][9] The response and perception of the army, and scores of army generals, to the Bomdila incident, reveals deep discontent between the Armed Forces, and abiding distrust, and suspicion of the IAS and IPS.[1][2][3][4][5]

Civil, police, and military officers Involved[edit]

The civil, police, and military officers in leadership positions involved in the events of 2-3 Novembers  were: Raja Bhantia,  Superintendent  of Police West Kameng, Indian Police Service (IPS), 2014 batch of the Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram-Union Territories (AGMUT) Police Cadre, who was confirmed in service Dec 2017, and posted to Bomdila in June 2018. His deputy, and Station House Officer (SHO), was Ashok Tayeng, the police officer, who allegedly arrested the two soldiers, and caused them grievous injuries.   Ms Sonal Swaroop, Indian Administrative Service (IAS), 2012 batch, Deputy Commissioner. Colonel  Firdosh P Dubash, Commanding Officer of 2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion.

Rakesh Srivastava, IAS, (1981 batch, Rajasthan cadre), the president of Indian Civil & Administrative Service (Central) Association. He wrote the letter to Defence Secretary urging deterrent punishment to officers and men of the army unit. Sanjay Mitra,  also an IAS officer of the 1981 batch of the West Bengal Cadre. He made the IAS association letter public on the same day, causing an impression that he was in agreement with the contents of Srivastava's letter.[4]

Ashish Gupta, Secretary IPS (Central) Association, an IPS officer of 1989 batch of UP cadre, who supervised the IPS tweets on the official tweet account of the association.

Response of Indian Administrative Service (IAS)[edit]

Ms Sonal Swaroop, Deputy Commissioner, in coordination with Raja Bhantia, provided official briefs and statements to the local and national media, the IAS association in Delhi, and the president of the Indian Civil & Administrative Service (Central) Association, and ordered a contingent of CRPF to come to the police stations.[10] Protests parades take place in Bomdila. In Delhi, the IAS response was coordinated and disseminated by the IAS association, through tweets, and retweets. The more detailed IAS association response to the Bomdila incident, however, is contained in the letter by Rakesh Srivastava, IAS, the president of Indian Civil & Administrative Service (Central) Association, to Sanjay Mitra, Defense Secretary, also an IAS officer. Rakesh Srivastava, in his letter to the Defense Secretary urges him to  take ‘strong and  firm action’  and   award deterrent punishment to officers, and  men of 2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion. Sanjay Mitra,  Defense Secretary, without comments, promptly releases the letter to media, giving an impression that he, in his capacity as the defence secretary, is in agreement with the letter's contents and recommendations.[4]

Response of Indian Police Service[edit]

Raja Bhantia, following his meeting with the CO of 2ASB, got in touch with the local and national media, and IPS association, in New Delhi. In his statements to the national media, he dismisses the injuries suffered by the soldiers in police custody as 'simple injuries', adding that police conduct did not constitute a 'cognizable offense so far'.

Instead he blames the CO for the stand off between the police and his unit. He categorizes the conduct of 2 ASB officers and men as cognizable, and records five FIRs, while obstructing the recording of FIRs by the 2 ASB. Police briefings, statements, and reports, asserted that 2 ASB vandalized government property, threatened SP and the DC, that the army escort was a horde of around 100 soldiers, who fired in the air, and cocked their weapons.[10][11]

Armed Forces response.[edit]

Unlike the IAS and the IPS, the Armed Forces, and its serving officers, are not permitted to form an association, or lobby in the way the IPS, which is armed, and uniformed, is permitted. Its official response was thus restrained, muted, and mature. An official defense communique however disputed, and dismissed the accusations leveled against officers and men of the unit, and concluded that the incident was an “outcome of highhandedness displayed by the Arunachal police coupled with the lax attitude of the civil administration”.[10] The trauma, pain, humiliation, helplessness, of the battered men of 2nd ASB, judging by the social media, was vicariously felt by all ranks in the armed forces, and by veterans, who while disparaging police conduct, provided background and explanation to the events in Bomdila.[1] The battering of the soldiers in police custody was perceived as "vindictiveness" and the subsequent attempt to brush aside the police beating of soldiers and their humiliation, by the IPS and IAS associations, as "attempts to both normalise and internalize this illegal action"[5]

Colonel Firdosh P Dubash, conduct and actions, as the  Commanding Officer(CO),  of rescuing his men from police custody, strong protest against police brutality, are widely applauded, and met with general approval, including by several senior retired officers.[2][4] Vijay Oberoi, Former Vice Chief of army Staff, commended the CO for his conduct and action, and held that he "must be supported by the Army hierarchy, as well as the political leadership".[2] General Malik said, "I would have done the same as what the commanding officer did." but "what apparently happened after that was wrong," and that "The IAS and IPS associations have no business to get involved in this.”

Lt General Oberoi, commenting on the police response, wrote, " the police had not acted in a responsible and mature manner, violating the laid down protocols of dealing with army personnel, ignoring that army personnel must be handed over to the military authorities and not locked up in the police station".[2] General Ved Malik, the former Chief of army Staff (COAS), said, “I was surprised. Why were the jawans picked up and put behind bars, instead of being handed over to the commanding officer?”[9] On 8 November Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, responding to questions about the Bomdila incident, says that the army was inquiring into the incident, and that “ If any jawans are found guilty, we will take action against them.” [11]

Government's response.[edit]

The Government approach to the fallout from events of November 2–3 was low key, and aimed at diffusing the issue, without addressing the cause behind the deep fissures that the incident revealed.[12] Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister, Kiren Rijiju, MoS for Home,  Lt Gen MM Naravane, General Officer Commanding-in- Chief Eastern Command, Lt Gen Gurpal Singh Sangha,General Officer Commanding (GOC),  4 Corps, coinciding with diwali visit Bomdila.

The incident  involving the police  and the army  on 2–3 November was termed as a ‘clash’ by Kiren Rijiju,the Minister of State (MOS) in the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).[13][14] The MOD, faulted "police and Indian Army jawans" for the standoff in Bomdila, and is studying, "how a brawl at a local level escalated into a major civil-military tussle",[15]

Time Line[edit]

2 November, Friday[edit]

Rifleman Chin Sonam and John Samyor  of the 2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion, on official out-pass, in mufti, as part of a supervised group,  while   attending Buddha Mahotsava[16] near Bomdila, are slapped, arrested and brutalized by the  AP for alleged misbehavior, despite having told the police that they are from the army, and that they belong to 2nd Arunachal Scouts.[4][5] The Police Officer responsible for the arrest, detention, and beating the soldiers was Ashok Tayeng. He was intoxicated at the time of the incident.[1][2] The Police officers before putting away the soldiers in the district jail and battering them, did not inform the military police, the unit of the soldiers, or the MHA, as they were duty bound to do.[2][4]

The civil district hospital to which the soldier were taken after their release in its findings recorded that the soldiers suffered " 'multiple contusions and blunt injuries’ on their shoulders, thighs and backs'. Similar finding was recorded by the military hospital, in Tenga, where the soldier are hospitalized after their release had been secured from the police.[5] Photographs of the two men in the hospital show them dazed, distraught and in heavy bandages.[13]

3 November, Saturday[edit]

Colonel  Firdosh P Dubash, Commanding Officer 2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion, the Police station to meet with the Raja Bhantia, the Superintend  of Police (SP), first in the morning, and then again in the afternoon. In the morning he is unable to meet with the SP, who, he is told, will come in the AN. In the morning visit which he had gone unarmed, and without his escort, he discovers that there a large presence of poorly supervised armed police, in an around the Police station. The armed police force called out by Raja Bhantia,  Superintendent  of Police, and Ms Sonal Swaroop, Deputy Commissioner, includes elements of the district police, the Arunachal Armed Police Battalion, and Central Reserve Police (CRPF), the Counter Insurgency Force, under the MHA, India's Ministry of interior.[1][2][13]

In the Afternoon, Colonel  Firdosh P Dubash, instead of going alone to the police station as he had done in the morning, goes with his Quick reaction Team, which carries its usual complement of weapons. This time he is able to meet with Raja Bhantia, the Superintendent  of Police (SP). In his meeting with the SP, in the context of the slapping, battering, jailing, humiliation, and dishonoring of his men by police under the SP's command, he warns the SP, that he will not tolerate such police conduct, and that if it were to occur again there would be retribution. While CO is in conference with the SP, the police under the SP's command, heckle, and abuse the CO's escort, causing a scuffle to breaks out, which before it can go out of control is diffused by the CO and SP.

4 November, Sunday[edit]

2nd Arunachal Scouts Battalion files an FIR at Bomdila PS against Ashok Tayeng, Station House Officer (SHO), which they were prevented from doing on 3 November. The district administration orders an inquiry in to the incident. The terms of reference of the inquiry are not announced. Organized street protest take place in Bomdila against the army.[8]

5 November, Monday[edit]

The army, in an official communique, refutes allegations and the narrative in the media provided by Ms Sonal Swaroop, Deputy Commissioner, and Raja Bhantia, Superintendent  of Police (SP).  The communique notes that the soldiers despite informing the police that they are from Indian Army were "locked up", “severely beaten" and are "presently admitted and are undergoing medical treatment in Mil hospital…”   With reference to events of 3 November the communique notes that the Commanding Officer “tried to defuse the situation by having a meeting with Banthia at the SP Office", but “the police personnel instigated the Commanding Officer’s protection by misbehaving with them and using un-parliamentary language which led to a scuffle between both sides”, which was diffused, by “the Commanding Officer and the SP.”[17] Disputing the police narrative, the army communique, concludes that "The police have not acted in a responsible manner and have violated all protocols. Instead of taking the soldiers to the police station, they should have handed them over to military authorities. ....The entire incident is an outcome of high-handedness of the Arunachal Police, coupled with a lax attitude of the civil administration".[17][10]

R K Khrimey, BJP national council member urges Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to order "a high-level probe".[17]

The IAS association, the body that represents all IAS officers, and is voice and lobbying arm of the service, at 9:40 PM - 5 Nov 2018, tweets, "This is unimaginable & strongly condemned. Assault on Police Station, attack on DC & SP by uniformed personnel is unacceptable. Strongly condemned and hope that the guilty are punished without delay."[6]

6 November, Tuesday[edit]

Rakesh Srivastava, IAS, President of the Indian Civil and Administrative Services Association, and Secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child development, Government of India, echoing the IAS association tweet of 5 November writes on his official letterhead,  to Sanjay Mitra (IAS 1982 Batch, West Bengal cadre), Defense Secretary, urging the Ministry of Defence, to take action against the Indian Army unit, and its officers.  In the letter Srivastava alleges Second Arunachal Pradesh Scouts — led by Col Firdosh P Dubash and Adjutant Major Kaushik Roy — “vandalised government properties and physically assaulted the district magistrate of the area, the superintendent of the police and other officials of the Bomdila police station in the West Kameng district of the state on November 2”; that  officers of the unit had “verbally abused and ‘stone-pelted”  the women officer, who had  similar allegations.   The letter urges the  Defence Secretary  to  take ‘strong and  firm action’  and award deterrent punishment to  give officers,  and  men of 2nd Arunachal Scouts.[4][8] The IAS association retweets Mr Srivastava's letter with endorsement that reads, "We strongly condemn the rogue act of ransacking a Police Station, threatening, abusing & assaulting a SHO, Deputy Commissioner, Superintendent of Police on duty. Rule of Law is paramount and Justice must be ensured specially when perpetrators are those whom the Nation looks up to.[18] Sanjay Mitra, IAS, Defense Secretary,  immediately  releases Srivastava’s letter to the media, to coincide with the Nirmala Sitharaman,  Defence Ministers visit to Bomdila.[4][2]

Defence Spokesperson Tweets, "Incident involving Army Jawan & local police pers at Bomdila has come to light. Accusations being looked into. Meanwhile, issue was discussed today at highest level in State Adm & Army. Any excesses from anyone will not be overlooked"[19]

7 November, Wednesday (Diwali)[edit]

Nirmala Sitharaman, Defence Minister(DM), Kiren Rijiju, Minister of State for Home,  Lt Gen MM Naravane, General Officer Commanding-in- Chief Eastern Command, Lt Gen Lt Gen Gurpal Singh Sangha, General Officer Commanding(GOC),  IV Corps, arrive in Bomdila and meet with the involved officials. Rijiju, MOS, tell Press Trust of India, “The Defence Minister and I looked into the ongoing conflict between the Army and State police personnel. I appeal everyone not to treat it as Army versus police and civil administration issue".[20] The DM, who visited army units, and celebrated diwali with them, but did not find time to visit the injured soldiers in the hospital.

8 November, Thursday[edit]

The IPS association, in the footsteps of the IAS association, tweets, " CO openly threatening civil authorities in Bomdila deserves condemnation. Unlike him, Civil Authorities acted with maturity."[7] The tweet is embeds with the edited video showing the CO warning the police against brutalizing his soldiers.[7] The IAS Association, to show its support, retweeted the IPS association tweet.[1]

General Ved Prakash Malik former Chief of army Staff responding to the tweets says, "The IAS and IPS associations have no business to get involved in this" and that he was surprised that the jawans were "picked up and put behind bars, instead of being handed over to the commanding officer?” “While I accept that what apparently happened after that was wrong, I would have done the same as what the commanding officer did.[9]

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, responding to questions about the Bomdila incident, says : “We are inquiring into it. If any jawans are found guilty, we will take action against them.” [11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Panag, HS (Lt General, Retired) (15 November 2018). "Arrogant bureaucracy and a sulking Army are not good for India". The Print. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Oberoi, Vijay (Lt General, Retired) (11 November 2018). "Bureaucratic High-Handedness At Bomdila: Political Protection Aggravates Situation". The Citizen. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Singh, Navdeep (10 November 2018). "Bomdila Violence: Why Indian Army and Civil Servants Should Stop Being at Loggerheads". The Quint. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Katoch, Prakash (Lt Gen) (15 November 2018). "Beyond the Bomdila Episode". Indian Defence Review, Net Edition. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Upadhyay, Akshat (Major) (17 November 2018). "Bandwagoning at Bomdila". The Tribune. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  6. ^ a b "IAS association Tweet". 5 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "#DemandCorrectiveAction #ArmyNotAboveLaw". 8 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  8. ^ a b c Dutta, Amrita Nayak (7 November 2018). "IAS body wants defence ministry to take action against Army for Arunachal 'assault'". The Print. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Dutta, Amrita Nayak (10 November 2018). "Bomdila bust-up is more proof that civil-military relations are at an all-time low". ThePrint. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  10. ^ a b c d Saha, Abhishek (5 November 2018). "Arunachal Pradesh: FIRs against soldiers for police station violence". Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  11. ^ a b c Manral, Mahender Singh (13 November 2018). "Soldiers pointed light machine gun at local SP, fired in air: Arunachal police report". Indian express. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  12. ^ PTI (11 November 2018). "Kiren Rijiju on Bomdila incident: Army, police should respect each other". Indian Express. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  13. ^ a b c "IPS Association Slams Army Over Arunachal Tussle As Crisis Spirals, 8.11.18,". The Quint. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  14. ^ "Def min takes stock of Bomdila incident". Arunachal Times. 9 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  15. ^ Dutta, Amrita Nayak (8 November 2018). "Defence ministry says both police and Indian Army jawans to blame for bust-up at Bomdila". The Print. Retrieved 18 November 2018.
  16. ^ Arunachal24.in (2 November 2018). "Guru Tulku Rinpoche kicks off Buddha Mahotsava in Bomdila". Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  17. ^ a b c Press Trust of India (5 November 2018). "Police, Army differ on Bomdila police station attack". 20 November 2018.
  18. ^ "IAS Association". 6 November 2018. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  19. ^ "Spokesperson MOD". @DefenceMinIndia @adgpi @indiannavy @IAF_MCC. 6 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  20. ^ "IPS Association Slams Army Over Arunachal Tussle As Crisis Spirals". The Quint. 8 November 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2018.