Preliminary investigations into the circumstances in which the Indian soldier crossed over into Pakistan have revealed that the jawan may have wilfully crossed the Line of Control (LoC) after an altercation with his superiors. India has maintained that Chandu Chavan had ‘inadvertently’ strayed across the LoC.
Chavan was found missing from his post in the Poonch sector on September 29, the day the army announced it had conducted surgical strikes against militants following the attack in Uri that killed 19 soldiers.
Highly placed officials told HT, “Chavan had an argument with his superiors over distribution of duties after which he abandoned his post.”
Lt Gen DS Hooda, Northern Commander, confirmed this to HT saying, “I received information that the jawan had gone missing from his post after an argument with the JCO (junior commissioned officer). Soon, we got information that he had gone across.”
Hooda, the northern army commander in September, retired in November-end.
Chavan was posted with 37 Rashtriya Rifles, a unit specifically tasked with manning forward posts on the fence along the Line of Control.
Said a senior official, “It is unlikely that he would not be aware that Pakistani territory lies across the fence.”
Efforts to secure Chavan’s release were immediately made through conversations on the DGMO hotline. The India-Pakistan director generals of military operations speak on the hotline once a week but were speaking more often then since the surgical strikes had just taken place.
Efforts to secure his release yielded results only after four months. Soon after Chavan was handed over to the Amritsar division at Wagah border on January 21, a press release from the Inter-Services Public Relations, Pakistan army’s information wing, said the soldier was “convinced to return to his own country” after he deserted his post “due to his grievances of maltreatment against his commanders”.
While the JCO has told his seniors about the argument, Chavan’s testimony is still underway. Deserting a post while on duty is an offence that can lead to a court martial but a final decision will be taken only after Chavan’s debriefing is completed, in which he will get a chance to put his side of the story. An army official confirmed that Chavan would be taken back to his unit in Poonch as part of the inquiry.