‘Human shield’ row: Claims, counter-claims by army Major, Kashmiri tied to jeep
An HT investigation found that locals in 17 villages of central Kashmir refuted the army’s claim that Major Gogoi faced massive stone pelting.
Army Major Leetul Gogoi’s act of tying a Kashmiri man to a jeep on April 9 as a ‘human shield’ in the face of what he claimed was heavy stone-pelting by an angry mob has stirred a huge controversy.
Gogoi, since commended by the army chief for his contribution to counter-insurgency operations, insists his decision taken at a ‘fraction of a moment’ helped rescue besieged officials and save lives.
Farooq Dar, the man used as the human shield, has accused Gogoi of lying. Eye-witness accounts of the events of that day when polling for the Srinagar parliamentary byelection was underway also differ.
HT looks at some of the divergent claims:
• SITUATION IN UTLIGAM WHERE DAR WAS TIED TO THE JEEP
Gogoi: Claims he was responding to a distress call from a polling station with besieged officials and security personnel. “When we reached the area, we saw a large crowd including women and children, they were throwing stones, some people were even throwing boulders at us from their roof tops,” he said.
Dar: Says situation was relatively calm when he was caught while passing by.
Villagers: Reported intermittent stone pelting but denies the presence of a large crowd.
• HOW DAR WAS CAUGHT
Gogoi: Claims Dar was instigating the mob to pelt stones.
Dar: Says after having cast his vote in his village of Chil, he was on his way on a motorbike to a relative’s house to condole a death in the family.
Villagers: Say Dar and a friend were passing by on a bike. “While his friend threw the bike and managed to flee, army caught hold of Dar,” they said.
• TYING DAR TO JEEP HELPED SAVE LIVES?
Gogoi: Says he saved the lives of 12 people, including four polling officials and seven Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel. Says tying Dar to the jeep created a “window to move out of the area safely”.
Dar: Says he was innocent. He in fact had voted already at polling booth number 90 (his serial number on the voting roll was 612).
Villagers: Say Dar was beaten up before being tied to the jeep. “After tying him up, they dared us to pelt stones at them,” a woman said.
• NUMBER OF PROTESTERS
Gogoi: Says 1,200 people were protesting at Utligam, forcing them to use a human shield.
Dar: Says he only saw a few people protesting when he was seized.
Villagers: The village has a population of around 900. They also say the spot from where Dar was seized cannot accommodate 1,200 people.
• WAS DAR AN INSTIGATOR?
Gogoi: Says Dar was an “instigator and could have been a ring leader’’ of stone-pelters. He, however, did not say he saw Dar pelting stones.
Dar: Says the Major “is lying to save himself.” “Please check my name in the list of voters. If I voted for democracy, why would I stop others from voting and pelt stones’’.
Villagers: Say they asked Dar to flee, but he refused since he believed no harm will be done to him as he had voted.
• RIVING THROUGH 17 VILLAGES FOR FIVE HOURS WITH HUMAN SHIELD
Gogoi: Has been silent on this.
Dar: Insists he was tied up at around 11am in the morning and taken off the jeep only around 4 pm.
Villagers: Eye-witnesses say they saw the jeep being driven around.