The curious case of the live grenades at Srinagar airport

While the jawan carrying live grenades was arrested, there is no clarity about the officer who allegedly gave him the packet or the man who was supposed to receive it in Delhi

Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Nitin Kanotra/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Ashutosh Sharma

The case of the army jawan caught carrying two live grenades at Srinagar International Airport is getting ‘curiouser’ with veterans raising a number of questions. The jawan arrested on Monday, April 3 was granted interim bail by a court in Budgam on Tuesday and handed over to the army authorities.

Bhupal Mukhiya was arrested at the Srinagar International Airport while he was on his way to catch a flight to Delhi on Monday. The Army had prayed for his custody saying it was needed for investigation at their end.

Meanwhile, in a similar incident, a live bullet was found in the baggage of another Army jawan at Srinagar International Airport on Tuesday. He was reportedly handed over to the Army for further investigation. The soldier Pandia Raj was proceeding on leave to Delhi.

Mukhiya, posted with 17 JAK Rifles in the Uri sector (Baramulla) had claimed that a Major in the Indian Army had given him the packet containing the live grenades, with instructions to hand it over to a person at the Delhi airport.

The Defence PRO of the Northern Command Colonel NN Joshi told National Herald over phone that he was not at liberty to divulge any detail about the investigation. Asked if the officer named by the jawan had been interrogated yet, he refused to reply.
Ex-servicemen National Herald spoke to maintained that officers manning the armoury make each bullet count and it was impossible for a jawan to steal ammunition unless officers write it off.

They took to social media to express their doubts. “The accused jawan has claimed that Major sahib had given him the packet and asked him to hand it over to a man in Delhi. The story stinks…all of you know of drug mules. Are our officers using our jawans as grenade (runners) or ammunition mules?” read a post on Veteran Jawan, a Facebook page dedicated to the issues of jawans.

“Grenades disappear from a unit and nobody knows about it. What kind of CO (commanding officer) does the unit have?” read another post.

“Had he travelled through a train, no one would have got a whiff of it,” commented Tara Chand on the Facebook post, adding, “this is how officers misuse soldiers.”

The page admin further commented that “we are waiting for the jawan to be crucified. The Major will go scot-free in any case.”

Commenting on the post, Rajesh Padmanabhan demanded that a polygraph lie detecting test be conducted to know the truth. Another Facebook user, however, was quick to react: “Before the polygraph test is conducted, the jawan would be declared mentally unsound.”

A former engineer with the Indian Navy, Ashok Nandle, commented on the same post: “This should be investigated by the CBI only. This once again makes it clear that we’ve a lot of corruption and black sheep in Army. There is need for reforms and transparency in armed forces.”

Pleading anonymity, a senior police officer from Srinagar told National Herald, “An FIR (bearing number 62) was lodged at police station Humhama after some CRPF jawans handed over Bhupal Mukhiya to us. In their complaint, the CRPF personnel claimed that he was carrying a material which was not allowed inside a flight.”

“The jawan has been granted bail and he will be produced before sub district court Budgam on April 6,” he said, adding that police were investigating the matter and the accused Major would also be questioned as required under the legal process.

Nalin K Talwar, a retired Air Force veteran associated with a body known as Sabka Sainik Sangharsh Committee, raised the following queries, insisting that the Army as well as the investigating agencies must look into them:

  • What are the manufacturing details of the grenades ?
  • Are the confiscated grenades used by the Indian Army?
  • If no, were these types of grenades ever confiscated from terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir?
  • If yes, then were they accounted for and deposited in those cases?
  • Does it signify internal adjustment and mismanagement of inventory? If the batch of the grenades is a part of downgraded/expired/written off category or returned to depot category?
  • Was the jawan scheduled to travel by road in a convoy? In that case, he would not have found it easy to hand over the packet to the recipient in Delhi
  • Who is this unidentified recipient to whom the accused jawan was supposed to deliver the package?
  • The accused jawan must have the cell phone number of this unidentified man. Call details of the number must also be investigated.
  • When and who booked accused jawan’s air travel ticket?

This article was updated at 7.15 pm on April 4, 2017 to give the correct description of Nalin K Talwar.

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Published: 04 Apr 2017, 6:43 PM