Army faces complaint for feting Major involved in human shield row

Army may have feted its Major who has come under scathing attack after tying up a Kashmiri youth to the bonnet of a vehicle but a complaint has been filed against the move.

Human rights activist, Ehsan Untoo, who earlier filed the case with State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) seeking action in the human shield row, has filed a fresh complaint with the Commission for taking action against Army to award its officer. He has noted in the complaint that the Army can’t award a person, who is involved in a grave human rights violation. “ How can they (Army) award its man when the matter is sub-judice,’’ he said, adding that he would approach the High Court in case swift action was not taken against the Army Major.

Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a youth, Farooq Ahmad Dar, to a jeep on April 9, when the polling was held on Srinagar parliamentary seat, purportedly as a shield against stone-pelters, was honoured with the Army chief’s ‘Commendation Card’ for his ‘sustained efforts’ in counter-insurgency operations.  The award for Major Gogoi was seen as backing of the action of the officer of the 53 Rashtriya Rifles even as the Army earlier ruled out reports that it has given a clean chit to the officer in the court of inquiry (CoI) that was ordered, into the incident, which is “under finalisation”. On Monday Major Gogoi was awarded with the Chief of Army Staff’s commendation card for his sustained efforts in “counter-insurgency operations,” Army spokesperson Col. Aman Anand had said.

“All factors including notable performance of Major Gogoi and “overall emerging indicators” of the Court of Inquiry, have been “well-considered” while conferring the award on him,’’ Army officials said, which signalled the clear indication of the Army’s support to his prompt decision to tie the man purportedly to protect soldiers from stone-throwers.

A video, showing the man tied to the Army vehicle during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election on 9 April, had triggered a public outcry, prompting the force to institute a probe even when the CoI into the incident is still under finalisation. The Army chief’s ‘commendation card’ is considered a prestigious award and is given for distinguished services and devotion to duty.

The CoI was tasked with a probe into the circumstances that prompted Major Gogoi to tie the Kashmiri youth to the jeep’s bonnet as a “human shield”. Some of the Indian news channels had come in support of the Army major describing the act of tying a man to the bonnet of a vehicle as “something which saved lives of many others.’’ An Indian national television channel had sought that the Army officer should be awarded. However, Untoo said that he has also filed the case against two Indian TV channels for their brazen “support to the Army officer, even when the case was yet to be concluded by the SHRC.’’

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