Soldier killing soldier: A look at the recent cases of fratricide in Armed/Paramilitary forces

The killing of a senior colleague has once again brought to the fore the issue of fratricide (killing of fellow or senior colleague) in our security forces.

A  Jawan on Monday allegedly pumped five bullets into an army officer, after a fracas erupted between them over the use of cellphone at a post near Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

Major Shikhar Thapa of 8 Rashtriya Rifles, posted at Buchar post in Uri sector, was allegedly shot when he ticked off Naik Kathiresan G for using his mobile phone on duty in a sensitive area, police said.

The phone was damaged while being confiscated, which led to an argument after which the jawan took out his service rifle and shot Major Thapa five times, killing him instantly,the Hindustan Times reported.

Major Thapa belonged to the 71 Armoured Regiment but was attached to 8 Rashtriya Rifles, the army’s elite counter-insurgency unit posted in Uri. Meanwhile, the police have lodged an FIR and started a probe into the incident. The killing of a senior colleague has once again brought to the fore the issue of fratricide (killing of fellow or senior colleague) in our security forces.

According to government data, from 2003-2013 (data for some years are missing), there have been at least 1,666 suicides in the armed forces and 109 cases of fratricide. There were at least 83 cases of fratricide in the army, navy and air force between 2000 and 2012, according to figures submitted by the defence ministry in Parliament. After 2006, which saw 13 of these killings, the number of fratricides had been gradually reducing. Indian Army is currently facing a 30% shortage of officers, which forces staff to perform additional duties. Experts attribute the suicidal tendencies and fratricidal killings to low morale among soldiers leading to stress, poor service conditions, inadequacy of leave to go home and communication gap with superiors.

CISF Jawan kills 4 senior officers: A CISF jawan shot dead four of his senior officers on January 12,2017 in an apparent row over leave in Bihar’s Aurangabad district. He shot 32 rounds before he was overpowered by his colleagues and was suspected to be suffering from some mental illness, police said.

In 2016, a 42 Rashtriya Rifles patrol walked into a pre-dawn ambush prepared for militants by soldiers of the same unit close to the Line of Control in Pulwama district, Kashmir. Mistaking each other for insurgents, both groups opened fire, killing two of their own comrades instantly and injured three seriously, reported the New Indian Express.

In a suspected case of fratricide, an army jawan was killed and another injured in a firing incident in Ganderbal district of Kashmir. The incident took place in July 2016 , in which one jawan allegedly shot at and injured his colleague before committing suicide.

According to a data  given by Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh in parliament in Dec 2015, 34 Army personnel committed suicide since 2012 besides eight cases of fratricide in the same period.

A 49 year old sepoy of the Indian Air Force’s Defence Security Corps in Mumbai took his rifle and fired at his colleagues, killing two of them and injuring two more on May 28, 2014. According to police, he took the extreme step be cause he was frustrated with his co-workers for allegedly verbally and physically abusing him.

Two days before, on May 25, 2014, a soldier from the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry in Poonch shot two of his colleagues and then killed himself, allegedly after an argument.

On February 27 2014, in Jammu and Kashmir, an army soldier killed five colleagues before committing suicide.