Police start probe; witnesses say Gogoi’s fellow soldier also received a few punches
Srinagar: Indian Army’s Major Leetul Gogoi, who tied a civilian to the front of an army jeep and then drove it around Budgam villages all day on April 9 last year, was on Wednesday denied accommodation in a Srinagar hotel after he arrived there with a Kashmiri girl. Major Gogoi arrived at Hotel Grand Mamta at about noon and straightway went to the check-in counter to get the room that he had already booked online for two guests for one night.
The manager of the hotel told Kashmir Reader that the front-office executive asked Gogoi to fill in the check-in form.
The manager said that when Gogoi was asked to hand over the identity proof of the persons who were supposed to stay in the room, it came to fore that the girl who was with him was a local.
“When he submitted the ID proof of the girl, the front-office executive came to know that the girl was a Kashmiri. He denied them entry into the hotel,” the manager said.
When asked why they were denied entry, the front-office executive at the hotel said, “A local girl barely 16 or 17 years of age was with a non-local man in his mid-40s. I could sense that something was wrong, therefore I denied them entry.”
The hotel staff said that the denial of the room enraged Gogoi. He started leaving the hotel along with the girl, but while doing so he started abusing the manager of the hotel, who reciprocated and it led to a heated exchange of words and later turned into a scuffle. Shopkeepers nearby the hotel told Kashmir Reader that the hotel staff beat up Gogoi before the hotel management decided to hand him over to police.
In the meanwhile, Gogoi rang up somebody who immediately appeared in the parking lot of the hotel in an Alto car, the manager said. This man was identified as Sameer Ahmad Mala, an army soldier in the same unit as Gogoi’s.
A resident of the area who witnessed the entire scene said that Sameer, after knowing that “his friend” Gogoi was denied entry and beaten, came out of his vehicle and started abusing the hotel staff. This further enraged the people present there and they served him a few punches, too.
Gogoi, by now, sensed that he was in trouble. He pleaded to the hotel manager to let them go. “We will not let you go till the police arrive here,” the manager replied.
The manager rang the police, who reached the spot and briefly took Gogoi and Sameer under custody at Khanyar police station. Both of them were handed over to their unit after recording their statements. The statement of the girl was also recorded, police said in a statement.
Local sources in Budgam said that Sameer Mala joined Indian Army in 2016 and is known to be very close to Major Gogoi. Both serve in the 53 Rashtriya Rifles of the Indian Army.
“Sameer regularly drives Gogoi in his vehicle to different parts of Budgam,” a local resident told Kashmir Reader.
Although some local police sources in Budgam, where the girl belongs to, said that she is a minor, the Superintendent of Police North city Srinagar Sajad Shah told Kashmir Reader that they had verified the age of the girl and she was not a minor. “She is not a minor, absolutely not,” Shah said. The identity of the girl has not been revealed.
Shah said that the IGP (Inspector-General of Police) has started a probe into the incident and after investigating the details if something “unlawful” crops up, a case will be registered against the people involved.
Major Leetul Gogoi tied a civilian, Farooq Ahmad Dar, to the front of an army jeep and paraded him for several kilometers on the day of parliamentary by-elections for Srinagar constituency in April last year.
Major Gogoi was recently honoured with the Indian Army chief’s ‘Commendation Card’ for his “sustained efforts” in counterinsurgency operations. Sources said that Major Gogoi was given the award during Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week.
The Army chief’s ‘Commendation Card’ is considered a prestigious award and is given for distinguished services and devotion to duty.
Srinagar-based army spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia did not respond to repeated calls from this newspaper.