The Border Security Force (BSF) has suspended the commandant of the 68th battalion, one of whose jawans has been indicted for the unlawful killing of a Srinagar youth on February 5. Fifteen other BSF men have been relocated and an officer of the rank of Inspector General from the north-east has been appointed to hold inquiry.

Official sources told The Hindu that commandant R.K. Virdi has been placed under suspension following allegations that the constable, Lakhvinder Singh, had fired upon the youth, Zahid Farooq Sheikh, at his command and direction. Zahid later died in hospital, evoking strong protests in the city.

The erring constable has already been arrested and handed over to the SSP, Srinagar, who is investigating the case.

A top BSF official, however, insisted there was nothing unusual about the commandant's suspension. "He has been suspended pending inquiry and this is being done to avoid influence of the interested party or destruction of evidence," he told this reporter.

BSF Inspector General Ramesh Singh, who is based in the north-east, has been appointed as the inquiry officer to look into the matter and see whether the commandant or any other rank was involved in the killing.

A report on NDTV quoting unnamed Kashmir police sources said "the commandant cocked [the jawan's gun] and physically forced him to fire on the teenager" but this information could not be independently verified by The Hindu.

Zahid and his friends were on their way home after their cricket game in Srinagar's Nishat area was rained out. They came across three BSF vehicles and began shouting slogans. Constable Lakhvinder Kumar allegedly got out and shot Zahid from point blank range.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police have registered a case of murder but the role of the commandant and others is also in focus. One of the questions being asked is why the commandant never reported the incident when he returned to base, as required by rules.

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