NEW DELHI: Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a local youth from Srinagar to the bonnet of an Army jeep as ‘human shield’ from stone pelters, was awarded Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation Card for “sustained efforts” during counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir.
Gogoi was awarded for showing presence of mind and quick thinking, thereby saving many lives when a team of election officials was surrounded by a mob pelting stones.
An Army official said that the decision to give the Commendation Card was taken during Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s visit to Srinagar last week and Gogoi was conferred the appreciation letter through normal command channels.
Gogoi is serving as an officer in 53 Rashtriya Rifles. His act of tying Farooq Ahmad Dar, a shawl weaver, drew flak from various political parties and others. A Court of Inquiry was initiated by the Army into the incident days later, but the findings are yet to be released.
The incident occurred on April 9 during the by-election for the Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary constituency. Incidentally, Dar had gone to cast his vote that day. Responding to the distress call by the officials, Gogoi had rushed to the site and brought out at least 11 persons, including a few para-military personnel, in a convoy after tying Dar to the jeep.
When the video of this action went viral, the Army and the officer concerned came under severe criticism. Former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah was one of the most vociferous critics.
The Army and the government had supported Gogoi. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, defended the action by claiming the action helped the Army save the poll officials. “Everyday people are dying. It’s a surcharged atmosphere. The Army is dealing with terrorists not with protesters, so they will have to be dealt with,” said Rohatgi.