Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande on Monday asked commanders in Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch sector to conduct military operations in the “most professional manner”.

Pande visited the union territory on Monday a day after the Jammu and Kashmir Police filed a case against unidentified persons for the deaths of three civilians after they were picked up by the Army for questioning.

The three men, identified as Safeer Hussain (43), Mohammad Showket (27) and Shabir Ahmad (32), were part of a group of eight persons picked up for questioning about a suspected militant attack in Poonch on December 21.

A 29-second video, purportedly showing soldiers stripping the three men and sprinkling red chilly powder on them, was shared on social media last week, leading to widespread criticism.

The attack on December 21 had left four soldiers dead. They have been identified as Naik Birender Singh, Naik Karan Kumar, Rifleman Gautam Kumar and Rifleman Chandan Kumar.

On Monday, Pande landed in Jammu, and proceeded to the Dhera Ki Gali area to take stock of the security situation, reported The Indian Express. The attack on December 21 had taken place on a road that connects the Dhera Ki Gali and Buffliaz areas in Poonch.

The Army chief then went to Rajouri, where commanders briefed him of the security situation.

Pande also addressed all officers and asked them to be more professional in their conduct, practical in their approach, and not get swayed by emotions.

The killing of three civilians triggered outrage after a video, purportedly showing soldiers stripping the three men and sprinkling red chilly powder on them, was shared on social media.

The Army also ordered a Court of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances that led to the death of three civilians. Unidentified officials have told The Indian Express that three senior officers, including a Brigadier, in Poonch’s Dhera Ki Gali have been moved out of their current roles and await their posting orders.

The Jammu and Kashmir government had on December 23 acknowledged the deaths of the civilians in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, but did not provide an explanation for how they occurred.

Beaten with batons and iron rods, says civilian

One of the men who was allegedly picked up by the security forces has claimed that he and others were beaten with lathis and iron rods, and also that chilli powder was rubbed on their wounds, reported The Indian Express.

“I am the person in the viral video that shows a man being beaten with iron rods and lathis by Army personnel,” 52-year-old Mohammad Ashraf told the newspaper.

He has been admitted to a hospital along with four others – 45-year-old Farooq Ahmed, 50-year-old Fazal Hussain as well as Hussain’s nephews, 25-year-old Mohammad Betab and a minor aged 15. A doctor has said all five have “soft tissue injuries”.

Recalling the incident, Ashraf told The Indian Express that after he and others were taken to a security camp in Dhera Ki Gali, officials “switched off our mobile phones and started beating us with lathis and iron rods without saying anything”.

“After some time, they removed our clothes and again started beating us with lathis and iron rods, and rubbed chilli powder on our wounds until we fell unconscious,” he claimed.

Ashraf said he has not been able to sleep since last Saturday due to the trauma. “Who can sleep when you have severe pain all over the body and the thoughts of torture haunt your mind the moment you close your eyes?” he asked.