Army officer whose unit was named for civilian deaths gets gallantry award

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New Delhi : Major Aditya Kumar, at the centre of a controversy following the death of three Kashmiri civilians in Army firing in January, and Rifleman Aurangzeb, gunned down by militants while he was on his way to celebrate Eid with his family, were on Tuesday named for the third highest peacetime gallantry award.

Sepoy Vrahma Pal Singh, who was killed in November last year in a shootout with militants, has been given Kirti Chakra - the second highest peacetime gallantry.

Major Aditya Kumar and Rifleman Aurangzeb (posthumous) were both honoured with the Shaurya Chakra -- an Indian military decoration awarded for valour and self-sacrifice while not engaged in direct action with the enemy. It is third in order of precedence of peacetime gallantry awards after Ashoka Chakra and Kirti Chakra.

The Major hogged the headlines when his unit allegedly opened fire at a stone-pelting mob in Shopian district on January 27. Three people were killed.

The officer was first reportedly named in an FIR by the Jammu and Kashmir Police for the civilian deaths in a controversial move that was challenged in the Supreme Court.

In March, the central government filed a petition in the court seeking quashing of the FIR.

The Jammu and Kashmir government, however, told the court that the Major was not named as an accused in the FIR after the apex court restrained the state police from taking any coercive steps against the officers of the Army unit.

Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry's Rifleman Aurangzeb, a known anti-terror face in the state, was kidnapped and killed by militants on June 14 when he was on his way to his home to celebrate Eid with his family in Poonch in Jammu division.

Aurangzeb was posted in a militant hotbed of south Kashmir district of Shopian with 44 Rashtriya Rifles. The 24-year-old had joined the Indian Army in 2012. He is survived by his wife, parents and three brothers.

The soldier was believed to have been instrumental in many anti-terror operations including the one that led to the killing of dreaded Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sameer Tiger.

He was on a Hizb hit list along with his company commander Major Rohit Shukla, who sustained a nonfatal bullet injury in the April 29 operation in Drubgam village of Pulwama in south Kashmir.

The Kirti Chakra awardee Vrahma Pal Singh of the Rajput Regiment was posted with 44 Rashtriya Rifles. On November 6, 2017, the Army launched an anti-militancy operation in Pulwama. Three militants, including a top Jaish-e-Mohammad commander and nephew of its Pakistan-based chief Moulana Masood Azhar, were killed.

The soldier received a bullet and succumbed to his injuries in a Srinagar hospital.

The three soldiers are among the 131 bravehearts approved for 131 gallantry awards by President Ram Nath Kovind, in his capacity as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

These include 20 Shaurya Chakras, three Bar to Sena Medals, 93 Sena Medals, 11 Nao Sena Medals and three Vayu Sena Medals.

The President has also awarded 26 Mention-in-Despatches to Army Personnel for their significant contributions in different military operations which include 25 (three posthumous) for ‘Operation Rakshak', one (posthumous) for ‘Operation Rhino' and one additional name approved by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.