Army Chief Bipin Rawat has said that Major Leetul Gogoi took the right call when he decided to tie a Kashmiri man to the bonnet of a jeep and use him as human shield against stone-pelters. He has said that while an inquiry was on against Gogoi for his actions, he doesn’t believe that there was any reason for major action against the officer.
Rawat defended the commendation card given to Gogoi since the incident took place for making “right call under the circumstances”. “To ensure the confidence level of the officer and others operating in similar environment, he was, therefore, conferred with the award,” he told an interview to a national financial newspaper. “The message is not for the people. I am concerned with my rank and file.” He added that those who throw stones in protest will be treated as anti-nationals by the Army.
Gogoi had held that Farooq Ahmad Dar, the man who was tied to the jeep, was instigating a crowd of stone-pelters, and that he had saved the lives of his team members by taking the decision to use him as a human shield. “Had we opened fire, there would have been a dozen casualties,” Gogoi said. “I got a fraction of a moment to get out safely. I saved at least 12 lives.” However, Dar reiterated that he had only gone to cast his vote when the security personnel mistook him for a protestor.
The incident took place on April 9 during the bye-election for the Srinagar parliamentary seat. A video of the incident went viral on social media and attracted severe criticism for the violation of Dar’s human rights. In the video, Dar was seen tied to the vehicle with a note pinned to his chest that read “this would be the fate of stone-pelters”.
On April 13, the Jammu and Kashmir police registered FIR at the Beerwa police station in Budgam district, where the video was believed to have been shot. The Army has constituted a Court of Inquiry to look into the matter.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”.