Moon Desk: The arrest of an Indian soldier over the killing of four others at a military base has brought into focus the issue of fratricide in the country’s military and paramilitary forces.
Fratricide, in military parlance, refers to a soldier or security personnel killing their own colleagues.Multiple studies over the last two decades have attributed fratricides and suicides in India’s armed forces to stress and depression.On Monday, police in the northern border state of Punjab said they had arrested the soldier at Bathinda military base following the killing of four colleagues at the base last week.
The army said the soldier had “confessed to his involvement” in stealing an assault rifle and killing four colleagues, and that “initial investigations indicate that this was apparently due to personal reasons or animosity”.
The Indian army did not respond to a request for comment on the issue of fratricides.
India’s army, navy and airforce have together lost more than 800 personnel to suicide since 2017, the defence ministry said in July 2022.The Indian military has about 1.4 million active personnel.According to official data made public in February 2020, the junior defence minister told parliament that there were seven killed in the army between 2016 and 2020, two in the air force and none in the navy during the same period.
The minister said that to prevent such cases the ministry had launched a mental health programme in 2009, which focuses on stress management, and those at high risk of combat stress are identified and counselled.Retired Major-General A.P. Singh said that the Bathinda incident was not a case of accidental blue-on-blue killing.
“Internal frustration, revenge, fear of getting caught for a misdeed and bad relations between soldiers, are some of the main reasons,” Singh said.A 2020 study by a serving army officer and published by the United Service Institution of India, reported a “significant increase in stress levels” among army personnel in the last two decades due to operational and non-operational stressors.
“Presently more than half of Indian Army personnel seem to be under severe stress,” it said, adding long exposure to counter insurgency and counter terrorism work was a factor.