Human shield row: Kashmir parties condemn Army major’s defence in a single voice

Gogoi was controversially awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s commendation card for “sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations” on Monday.

india Updated: May 24, 2017 21:39 IST
Ashiq Hussain
Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Army major Leetul Gogoi,Kashmir parties,Human shield
Farooq Ahmad Dar was tied to an open Army vehicle and paraded through 17 villagers by Army officers on April 9.(Waseem Andrabi/ HT photo)

All the major mainstream and separatist political organisations in Kashmir, including the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), have condemned Army major Leetul Gogoi’s defence for using a Kashmir resident as a human shield against stone pelters last month.

Gogoi hit the headlines again on Monday, when he was controversially awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s commendation card for “sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”.

The widespread condemnation was triggered by Gogoi’s media address on Tuesday, when he stated that the act of tying Farooq Ahmad Dar – a 26-year-old shawl weaver in central Kashmir’s Budgam district – to an open vehicle and parading him through 17 villages on April 9 had “saved lives”.

State education minister Altaf Bukhari told a news channel that Gogoi’s act was condemnable. “This was an inhuman act, and I feel ashamed for it,” he said.

Independent attempts by HT to contact Bukhari proved unsuccessful.

When asked about the award granted to the major, the senior PDP leader said he would comment on the matter only after the police investigation ordered into the case has reached its logical conclusion. “The law will run its course,” he added.

The PDP runs a coalition government in the state with the BJP, which has openly supported the Army major’s act. Many across the globe, however, have decried it as a case of human rights violation.

Dar was tied to the Army vehicle on the day of the central Kashmir bypolls, which witnessed largescale violence and abysmal voter turnout. Major Gogoi told mediapersons that turning the man – who was “most likely the ring-leader” – into a human shield afforded security personnel an opportunity to enter the polling station and rescue the staffers trapped inside.

Dar responded by saying that the Army major was “lying” to save himself.

Meanwhile, the women’s wing of the National Conference took out a protest rally in Srinagar against rewarding Gogoi for his “unconscionable act of using Dar as a human shield”. Dozens shouted slogans as they marched from the party headquarters in Nawa-i-Subh complex to the Radio Kashmir crossing, where they were stopped by police.

MLA Habba Kadal Shameema Firdous – who was leading the protest – demanded action against the Army major for his “shameful act”, and wondered why chief minister Mehbooba Mufti never objected to Dar being honoured. “The government and the chief minister should be ashamed,” said Firdous. “The Armymen should have been punished, so other officers are discouraged from following suit. Instead, it was encouraged. This means they have been given the licence to repeat such acts.”

Claiming that the government has failed the people, she said: “Now they will use us as human shields and shower us with bullets. There is no protection.”

In a statement released on Monday, moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the decision to honour the Army officer shows that the Indian government and its institutions have “internalised the occupational mindset toward the people of Kashmir, who they see and treat as serfs”.

“Such decisions also expose the much-flaunted democratic credentials of the Indian state globally. They also reassure us about the justness and fairness of our struggle against an oppressor,” he added.

Separatist hawk Syed Ali Geelani termed it a distressing and shameful act. “Honouring such an officer clearly vindicates our claim that this is a state-sponsored policy which will prove detrimental to human lives if not stopped. We would like the International Court of Justice to intervene, like it did in the case of (alleged Indian spy) Kulbhushan Jadhav,” he said.

First Published: May 24, 2017 21:02 IST