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Wednesday, Aug 21, 2019

Amarinder Singh had no business justifying the use of human shield in Kashmir

While trying to support he Indian Army, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh ended up endorsing the use of a man tied to a jeep as a human shield in Kashmir. This statement was not only entirely unnecessary, it was also extremely irresponsible, especially by an elected head of a state government.

opinion Updated: May 16, 2017 22:27 IST
Vidya Subramanian
Vidya Subramanian
Hindustan Times
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ended up endorsing the use of a man tied to a jeep as a human shield in Kashmir.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh ended up endorsing the use of a man tied to a jeep as a human shield in Kashmir.(PTI)

The chief minister of Punjab, Amarinder Singh, formerly a Captain in the Indian Army, tried to come out in support of his former colleagues, by speaking about the vulnerability of Army men in border states such as Jammu and Kashmir. That would have been a responsible and mature stand to have taken. Instead, the former Captain ended up endorsing the gross violation of basic human rights that the army has been accused of perpetrating.

While expressing his admiration for the men in uniform, Amarinder Singh came down heavily on those criticising the official who was responsible for tying an innocent man to the front of an Army jeep and using him as a human shield. The official, a Major in the army, tied Farooq Ahmad Dar to the front of his jeep, and paraded him for several hours in the streets of Srinagar. Dar has claimed that he was tied to the jeep and paraded from 10 am to 5:30 pm. In a video of the incident that went viral on social media, a warning can be heard that stone pelters will all meet this same fate. Captain Singh defended the actions of the Major and even went so far as to say “had I been in the same situation, I would have carried out the same action.”

There was absolutely no need for Captain Singh to make any comments regarding the incident, especially since the court of inquiry into the allegations has still not come to any conclusions. While he’s allowed to have a personal opinion on any matter, here his statement becomes doubly irresponsible because he is the elected head of the state government of Punjab; and is directly responsible for the welfare and safety of the people of his state. His utter disregard for human rights and the rights of the individual, especially in areas of conflict and tension, does not inspire confidence. He has urged the central government to send out a “strong signal” to those opposing the State, and said that he supported the Indian army’s warning of “appropriate response” for the “despicable act” of the mutilation of bodies of two Indian soldiers by Pakistan army in Poonch.

The problem of Kashmir is a very complicated one, with no simple solutions, and as most observers have agreed, certainly not a solution that involves an extensive use of armed forces. To paint the problem in the simplistic binary terms of people versus the Army does nothing to help solve the problems of the state. At a time when goodwill towards government institutions in the Valley is at an all time low, the need of the hour is to de-escalate the conflict. By arguing that the actions of the Major are not only justified, but also worth emulating, the chief minister of Punjab is only making the rift between Kashmiris and the government wider. He would do well to be more mindful of his words and actions.


First Published: May 16, 2017 13:02 IST

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