Kashmir ‘human shield’ row: Attorney general Rohatgi says ‘I salute Major Gogoi’, will defend him in court
Major Leetul Gogoi, who allegedly tied up a Kashmiri man to a jeep to ward off stone-pelters, has been awarded the army chief’s commendation card.Updated: May 25, 2017, 20:01 IST
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said on Thursday the government would defend Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi in court on the Kashmir human shield row, if needed.
“I salute Major Gogoi,” he said, joining a long list of people praising the army officer under investigation for tying a Kashmiri weaver to a military jeep’s bonnet and driving around during a violence-marred Lok Sabha bypoll in Srinagar in mid-April.
The major’s action triggered a fierce debate about military ethics and atrocities on people in the insurgency-hit Kashmir Valley. He defended his act saying he did it to save people from a stone-throwing mob.
Gogoi was nominated to receive the COAS commendation award despite facing a court of inquiry for alleged human rights violation. He is also named in an FIR registered by Jammu and Kashmir police.
Rohatgi, the country’s top law officer, supported the military officer and said he will “defend Gogoi if a case is lodged against him”.
“Major Gogoi risked his life for the nation. His critics are speaking rubbish and they have no respect for valiant soldiers who are laying down their lives every day so that we can sleep and work in peaceful conditions.”
“I salute him for his presence of mind” to avert violence and that should not be condemned, the attorney general said.
According to him, the officer followed “principles of restraint” to resolve an explosive situation and “he did so without any loss of life”.
Rohatgi has defended the armed forces during litigation in the Supreme Court, the latest being his defence of pellet guns used by paramilitary forces in Kashmir for crowd control.
These weapons are called non-lethal, but blinded and maimed many people and caused fatal wounds too during last year’s public unrest in the Valley.
Rohatgi criticised the top court’s verdict against the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which allowed security forces extra-judicial powers during counter-insurgency operations.
The verdict last year restrained security personnel from using “extreme force” even areas where the AFSPA is invoked. The act is blamed for several alleged extra-judicial killings in Kashmir and the Northeast.
But the attorney general argued that “the principles of right to self-defence cannot be strictly applied while dealing with militants and terrorist elements in a hostile and unstable terrain”.