FIR against Army over Shopian firing to be taken to logical conclusion: Mehbooba Mufti

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JAMMU: Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Monday said the police FIR against an Army unit involved in the firing in Shopian that left two civilians dead will be taken to a “logical conclusion”, in a snub to ally BJP which had demanded withdrawal of the murder case.

Mufti made the assertion while defending the police action, saying a “black sheep can be anywhere”, amid an uproar in the state assembly over the firing and a demand by BJP MLA RS Pathania for immediate withdrawal of the FIR. Pathania, however, said his party supports the magisterial probe to allow law to take its own course.

The FIR was registered against the personnel of 10, Garhwal unit, of the Army under sections 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Ranbir Penal Code. A Major, who led the Army personnel at the time of the incident on Saturday, was also mentioned in the FIR, officials said on Sunday.

Two civilians were killed when Army personnel fired at a stone-pelting mob in Ganovpora village in Shopian, prompting the chief minister to order an inquiry into the incident.

J&K Police chief SP Vaid said registration of FIR in the Shopian incident is just the beginning of the investigation and the Army’s version would be taken into account as well.

Mufti said she did not believe the police action would have a demoralising effect on the Army.

Terming the incident a “setback” to the political process, Mufti said she had spoken about it to defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman who asked her to take the required action in case there was “carelessness”.

The state assembly witnessed repeated interruptions by the opposition, which moved an adjournment motion over the Shopian incident.

“I do not accept that the Army gets demoralised by such actions. The Army is an institution and has done a wonderful job. But a black sheep can be anywhere … Among judges there can be black sheep, but we can’t paint every one with the same brush,” Mufti said.

She said if somebody commits a mistake, the person should be punished as such a course only brings laurels to the institution.

“If some Army officer has committed a mistake, an FIR has been lodged and it is the duty of the government to take it to a logical conclusion,” Mufti said.

It is a “big issue”, said Mufti, who leads a PDP-BJP coalition in the state.

Every now and then we have “unfortunate” incidents that should not have happened, she added.

“We are asking the Army and other security forces to maintain utmost restraint but it is also a fact that unlike in the past when villages used to get deserted if there was an encounter, or even a fake encounter, now hundreds indulge in stone pelting on security forces when an encounter breaks out,” she said.

“I talked to the Union defence minister immediately after learning about the incident and she was positive in her response,” Mufti told the House.

“She said if you feel there is carelessness (on the part of the Army), you take whatever action you want to take. Subsequently, we lodged an FIR and ordered a magisterial probe,” the chief minister said.

Demanding that the FIR registered against the Army personnel be withdrawn forthwith, Pathania said already a magisterial probe has been ordered into the incident and let the law take its own course.

“There is a consensus on the magisterial probe and criminal action should be taken against the guilty. But naming the Army personnel in the FIR (without completion of the inquiry) and levelling serious charges should not have been done,” he told the assembly.

State BJP spokesperson Virender Gupta in a statement termed as “unfortunate and disgusting”, the lodging of the FIR against the Army when no FIR was lodged or enquiry ordered against the stone pelters. He said nothing should be done that demoralises the forces.

Questioning ordering of a magisterial inquiry as well as registration of the FIR against Army personnel, National Conference working president Omar Abdullah said confusing signals are being sent out.

“On one hand, magisterial inquiry was ordered and simultaneously, an FIR was lodged against the Army in which a Major and some personnel were named,” he said, adding if the FIR had been lodged against unknown persons, the importance of magisterial inquiry would have remained intact.

“If we know in advance the people involved and a case of murder and attempt to murder is registered, then what is the need for magisterial inquiry,” Abdullah asked during a discussion on the Shopian incident in the assembly.

Asked at a news conference whether the Army’s version will be a part of the probe, DGP Vaid said, “The Army’s version, eye-witness accounts and the statement of those who lost their near and dear ones would be included.”

“We will go through all facts and the ground evidences of the case and the Army will also be questioned,” Vaid said.

According to the police, the crowd hurled stones on a security force convoy passing through Ganovpora village following which the Army men fired a few rounds.

A defence spokesperson, however, had said the troops opened fire when a mob tried to lynch a junior commissioned officer and snatch his service weapon.

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Online retail grew less than expected in 2017

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Online retail sales grew by 12.1% year on year in 2017, according to the annual IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. But although sales grew over the year, annual online retail sales were 2% below the forecast growth rate of 14% – and were below the previous year’s 15.9% online retail sales growth rate.

Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG, said several macro-economic factors, such as rising inflation and interest rates, may have contributed to the slow growth, and that retailers should expect 2018 to be even harder.

“It may be that retailers will now find themselves caught in a cycle of discounting, which also happened in 2011 and 2015 and will probably extend long after the January sales, as the trading climate is tough at the moment,” he said.

The lowest online retail growth of 2017 was recorded in December – 9.1% – despite the Christmas period usually being one of the busiest for retailers.

This could have been influenced by Black Friday becoming increasingly online-focused, dragging sales into the months leading up to December.

As technology is increasingly being used to make consumers’ lives easier, customers are shopping more often and in smaller amounts for convenience. This is one of the ways the spread of technology is influencing consumer behaviour.

Growth rates for online sales via devices such as smartphones and tablets were also below the previous year’s figures. The average monthly growth for smartphone-based sales between July and December 2017 was 50% down on the average monthly growth of 77% for the equivalent period in 2016. Tablet sales stayed relatively stable in 2017, with online sales growth for these devices reaching only 0.7%.

Online sales for all devices are expected to slow down in 2018, with retail growth of 9% forecast for this year – the lowest since the index began.

However, the research found that the low growth for online retail over the last few years is consistent with previous patterns. Despite the predicted low growth in sales, Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement at Capgemini, believes this year might instead show high technology adoption and experimentation in the space, which could see a more positive impact on retail in 2019.

Unadkat said a focus on introducing new technologies such as social media shopping, voice-driven shopping and artificial intelligence will help retailers to keep on top of consumer demand and will shift the retail landscape.

“A second opportunity will be deepening relationships with customers and taking an insight-driven approach to omni-channel retail – which, arguably, remains a gap for many retailers,” he said.

Retail is now shifting far beyond the battle between online and offline. Emerging trends, such as consumers using voice-controlled devices to order goods online and internet-connected technologies ordering their own stock, are just some of the advances that are changing the way customers shop, forcing retailers to adopt and adapt.

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