Two former chief ministers of India-held Kashmir have demanded an investigation into an alleged incident of Indian soldiers forcing Muslim worshippers in a mosque in the valley’s Pulwama area to chant Hindu slogans, the Indian media has reported.

“Shocked to hear about army troops from 50 RR (Rashtriya Rifles) storming into a mosque at Pulwama and forcing Muslims inside to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’. Such a move when [Home Minister] Amit Shah is here and that too ahead of yatra (a Hindu pilgrimage) is simply an act of provocation,” said former CM Mehbooba Mufti in reaction to the reports.

She requested Indian Lieutenant General Rajiv Ghai, who recently took command of India’s Chinar Corps in the area, to “immediately set up a probe” into the reported incident.

Similarly, former CM Omar Abdullah termed the reports “deeply distressing”.

“It’s bad enough they entered but then forcing people to chant slogans like ‘Jai Shree Ram’ as reported by the locals there, is unacceptable,” he said, referring to a Hindu religious slogan.

He expressed hope that Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh would issue instructions for the reports to be investigated in a “timely and transparent manner”.

The incident

According to Indian news website The Wire, the residents of Zadoora — a village in occupied Kashmir’s Pulwama area — said the alleged incident took place on June 24 around 1:30am when soldiers of Rashtriya Rifles, a counter-insurgency force, arrived at the village, reportedly along with an unidentified officer.

“While the officer was sitting on the bonnet of one of the vehicles, the soldiers asked me to come out,” Mohammad Altaf Bhat, a Zadoora local and chairman of the Zadoora Civil Society group, told The Wire.

“I thought that they were looking for some suspects in the village,” he said, adding that the soldiers told him that a new team was being posted in the area and it was conducting a mock drill in the village to teach recruits how to carry out counter-insurgency operations.

“I told them that the operation could have been carried out during the day also and it was wrong to disturb villagers in the middle of the night,” the report quoted Bhat as saying, who said the villagers were kept awake till dawn.

Then around dawn, Bhat told The Wire, Indian army soldiers followed the muezzin (one who makes call for prayers). “In the middle of the azaan (call to prayer), the soldiers forced him to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogans,” he alleged.

According to the report, area residents alleged that Indian army soldiers detained at least 10 villagers during their exercise and five of them were beaten up, including Bhat’s son.

“They (soldiers) forced the detained youngsters to chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’ slogans in chorus behind him also,” Bhat further claimed.

Moreover, The Wire quoted local sources as alleging that the army also vandalised the Jamia Masjid Zadoora.

Meanwhile, Indian news website Scroll.in reported that a similar incident reportedly took place in at least one other mosque in the area.

The Wire quoted a senior army officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as saying that the incident had “come into their notice”.

“We are ascertaining the facts. Once we have clarity about what has happened, we will share the details,” the report quoted the officer as saying.

Meanwhile, The Telegraph quoted Bhat as saying that high-ranking army officials had apologised to the villagers on Sunday, adding that the officials had said that an army major involved in the incident was also removed.

“We are satisfied with the army’s action but we don’t want a repeat of such incidents,” he said.

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