‘Next Army Chief’ hit by fake shootout

Even before the row over Army Chief Gen VK Singh’s age was settled, his likely successor Lt Gen Bikram Singh has been hit by a slew of allegations.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Even before the row over Army Chief General VK Singh’s age was settled, his likely successor Lt Gen Bikram Singh has been hit by a slew of allegations.

Lt Gen Bikram Singh has been accused of staging a 2001 shootout in Kashmir in which an alleged foreign militant was killed. The allegation can mar his chances for the top post.

Bikram Singh is currently the senior most Lieutenant General of the Indian Army and is tipped to be next chief of the 1.3 million force.

With the Defence Ministry rejecting Gen VK Singh`s contention that 1951, and not 1950, be considered his year of birth, he is set to retire on May 31 this year.

A writ petition has been filed by a Kashmiri mother, Zaituna, alleging that the militant killed in the March 1, 2001, South Kashmir shootout may be her son Abdullah Bhat, a resident of Machil border area in North Kashmir.

The Lieutenant General was then brigading the 5 Sector Rashtriya Rifles unit headquartered in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. The shootout took place in Janglat Mandi under Bikram Singh`s control.

The Army had then claimed to have killed Mateen Chacha in a gunfight with militants that also led to the death of two civilians and two Army personnel.

Bikram Singh, now commanding the Eastern Command, was also injured in the cross fire. The police in their report on the shootout had confirmed the Army claims.

But a decade later, Zaituna filed a petition in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court last year claiming the militant was her son. Zaituna`s daughter Jana is a co-petitioner.

The petition seeks reinvestigation of the case and remains of the alleged militant exhumed for DNA test.

"The photographs of the victim (killed militant) taken by police must also be shown to the family for identifying," the petitioners said.

The court in its order on October 13, 2011, asked the state government and the Defence Ministry to file their responses to the petition and sought all records pertaining to the case for perusal. The case has come up for hearing several times in the court but has been consistently deferred to next dates.

It is now expected to be taken up for hearing in February when the High Court re-convenes in Srinagar after a month-long winter vacation.

Asked if the allegations could affect the chances of Bikram Singh for the top job, the Army Chief said: "I have got no clue on this."

"The report (about Bikram Singh) is not with us. When it comes to us, we will let you know," Gen VK Singh said.

Apart from this case, an MP is also reported to have written to the Prime Minister saying it would not be right to promote Lt Gen Bikram Singh to the rank of Army Chief as his daughter in-law is from Pakistan. The intelligence establishment had however given a go ahead for Lt Gen Bikram Singh when sought a view by the PMO.

There have also been anonymous complaints against him regarding his posting in Africa as part of a UN peacekeeping mission, and his alleged failure to ensure discipline among Indian soldiers. Accusations have been levelled against several members of an Indian Army battalion that they had illicit sex with local African women and fathered children there.

(With IANS inputs)

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