Human shield row: Army major who ‘tied’ Kashmiri man to jeep honoured
An army major, who was in the eye of a storm for allegedly tying a Kashmiri man to a jeep to use him as a human shield, has been awarded the army chief’s commendation card.
Confirming the development, army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said the officer had been awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation (COAS) card for “sustained efforts in CI (counter insurgency) operations”. Sustained efforts imply that the officer has been recognised for work done by him over a period of time.
Asked if the recognition was related to the jeep incident, Col Anand told HT, “I reiterate he has been awarded for his sustained efforts.”
While awarding the officer, “all factors including notable performance of the officer and overall emerging indicators of the court of inquiry have been well-considered”, army sources said.
The army found itself in the middle of a firestorm after the surfacing of a video clip that purportedly showed a man tied to the fender of a Rakshak jeep and paraded through villages. A day after the video clip surfaced on April 14, the army ordered a probe into the incident.
In the video, announcements of people being warned that “this will be the fate of stone-pelters” could be heard in the background. The incident had triggered outrage in Kashmir, with separatists saying it was on “expected lines from an oppressor”.
The incident had deepened the army-civilian divide and sparked violent protests in the militancy-hit valley.
The force and the government had defended the action ordered by Major Leetul Gogoi from Assam. Army officials had earlier said the troops were forced to take the extreme step to save themselves from stone-pelting, which has become one of the most common and frequent forms of protest in Kashmir since the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani.
The government also backed the army, with the country’s top law officer saying in April that the officer-in-charge “did a smart thing and defused a nasty situation”.
Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi had said the major was summoned by officials to a poll booth since they were surrounded by hundreds of suspected stone-pelters.
“The poll booth is symbolic of democracy. He (the major) should not be criticised. The army should be applauded. They are guarding our northern and north-eastern frontiers admirably,” Rohatgi had said in a statement.
According to sources, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a concall with officials of the J&K government on Wednesday.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh said Major Gogoi’s commendation would have a positive impact on the morale of soldiers.