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‘Indian Army Doesn’t Discriminate, Amritpal Died By Suicide,’ Army Clarifies

The Indian Army said on Sunday that Amritpal Singh committed suicide by shooting himself while on sentry duty, amid a significant political controversy surrounding the refusal to offer a guard of honour to an Agniveer recruit. The Indian Army clarified that military honours were not given to Singh’s funeral because deaths resulting from self-inflicted injuries are not given such honours.

Singh was serving in the Poonch area with a battalion of the Army’s Jammu and Kashmir Rifles. He passed away on October 11 and was cremated on Friday in his hometown of Mansa district, Punjab.

The Army further declared that it does not distinguish between soldiers depending on when they enlisted—before or after the Center’s Agnipath initiative, which recruits soldiers into the three armed services of the armed forces below the rank of commissioned officer. Every recruit will only be employed for a duration of four years.

There has been some “misunderstanding and misrepresentation” of the events surrounding Singh’s death, according to a statement released by the Army on Sunday night.

“Unfortunate instances of death arising out of suicide/self-inflicted injury, irrespective of the type of entry, are accorded due respect by the Armed Forces along with deep and enduring empathy with the family,” it said.

“It is a grave loss to the family and the Indian Army that Agniveer Amritpal Singh committed suicide by shooting himself while on sentry duty,” the Army said.

“In consonance with the existing practice, the mortal remains, after conduct of medico-legal procedures, were transported under Army arrangements along with an escort party to the native place for the last rites,” it said.

According to the Army, when it comes to entitled perks and etiquette, the armed forces do not distinguish between soldiers who enlisted before or after the Agnipath system was put into place.

“Such cases, however, are not entitled to military funerals as per the extant Army Order of 1967, in vogue. Policy on the subject has been consistently followed ever since, without any discrimination,” the Army said.

“As per data held, there has been an average yearly loss ranging between 100-140 soldiers since 2001 where deaths occurred due to suicides/self-inflicted injuries, and military funeral in such cases was not accorded,” it added.

Additionally, it stated that financial support and relief, including urgent funding for funeral expenses, would be distributed in accordance with entitlements.

According to the Army, in these circumstances, it is crucial and required of society to protect the family’s privacy, respect, and dignity while also showing compassion for them during their time of loss.

“Armed Forces have a reputation for adhering to rules and procedures, and they will keep up this tradition. The Indian Army remarked, “As it adheres to its established protocols, it requests the support of all segments of society.”

Singh died on guard duty in the Rajouri sector on Saturday, according to the Army’s White Knight Corps, which has its headquarters in Nagrota. Singh’s gunshot wound was self-inflicted.

It added that a Court of Inquiry would be held to ascertain more details on his death which is currently in progress. The death took place on October 11.

The White Knight Corps reported that Singh’s mortal remains were brought in a civil ambulance rented by the Unit of the Agniveer, along with one junior commissioned officer and four other ranks. Accompanying Army officers also attended the last rituals.

However, the White Knight Corps stated that, in compliance with current policy, no military funeral or guard of honour was given because the deceased caused their own injuries.

In June 2022, the Agniveer Scheme for enlisting in the military was launched. The programme is simply intended to recruit soldiers—officers are not to be included in the army. Agniveers are the soldiers who are recruited as part of this Agneepath plan.

A row erupted on Saturday, with opposition parties expressing shock over the matter.

On Sunday, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) questioned the Centre over the policy under the Angnipath Scheme. Addressing a press conference, AAP leader Raghav Chadha said Singh’s family will not be entitled to pension, while he will not be accorded the status of a martyr.

“No Army unit came to hand over his body. His body was brought in a private ambulance and he was not given any military honour. But the police gave him state honours during his last rites,” news agency quoted Chadha as saying.

He said this “raises serious questions” over the policies of the BJP-led Centre.

“The Punjab government, led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, will be giving an amount of ₹1 crore as Samman Rashi to the family of Amritpal Singh and will also accord the status of a martyr to him. The Punjab government is with them in this hour of grief,” the AAP leader said.

Shiromani Akali Dal leader and former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said she was shocked to learn that Singh was cremated without the army guard of honour.

She sought intervention from defence minister Rajnath Singh in the matter, seeking necessary directions to accord military honours to all martyred soldiers.

Reacting to the incident, Punjab Congress chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring said, “This is a sad day for our country as this (soldier) who was recruited under the Agniveer scheme was sent back home in a private ambulance and not given any guard of honour by the @adgpi.”

“Does being an Agniveer mean that their lives don’t matter as much,” he asked on X

“The bereaved family had to request the local Punjab Police to give our young boy a guard of honour. Is this why @BJP4India started this policy? Is this how we will treat our Agniveers, different from the rest of our soldiers? Does the Central Government have any answers for this inhuman treatment of our young martyr? Shameful!,” Warring added.

Chief of the Shiromani Akali Dal, Sukhbir Singh Badal, criticised the Bhagwant Mann government, expressing amazement at the chief minister’s failure to send any state-level dignitaries to offer an appropriate send-off to the young martyr.

“CM must not use the policies of the federal government as an excuse, as nothing prevents the state government from honouring the martyr and providing his family with the most generous support at this trying time. S. Parkash Singh Ji Badal would have taken prompt action in doing this, the person wrote on X.

Leader of the SAD Bikram Singh Majithia called for the termination of the Agniveer programme and the regularisation of all soldiers who had been recruited by it up to that point.

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