NEW DELHI: Army Chief Bipin Rawat came out in strong defence of Major Leetul Gogoi, the young officer accused of using a Kashmiri man as human shield against stone throwers, on Sunday. In an interview to news agency PTI, Rawat said the main objective of awarding Major Gogoi was to boost the morale of young officers serving in a ‘very difficult’ environment in Kashmir.
“People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us. If my men ask me what do we do, should I say, just wait and die? I will come with a nice coffin with a national flag and I will send your bodies home with honour. Is it what I am supposed to tell them as chief? I have to maintain the morale of my troops who are operating there,” he said.
The Army Chief added that it was his duty to lift the morale of personnel in Kashmir and he did so by awarding Major Gogoi. “As the Army Chief, my concern is the morale of the Army. That is my job. I am far away from the battlefield. I cannot influence the situation there. I can only tell the boys that I am with you. I always tell my people, things will go wrong, but if things have gone wrong and you did not have malafide intent, I am there.”
Rawat also claimed he had a broad idea of proceedings at the Court of Inquiry against Major Gogoi, and it was the reason why he awarded the young officer. “I know what is happening in the CoI. It is being finalised. What do we punish him for,” he asked, adding the forces have the right of self-defence. “Major Gogoi could have opted to fire at the crowd but he chose not to resort to it.”
Talking about the complexity of the security challenge in the restive State, he suggested it would have been easier for security forces if protesters were firing weapons instead of throwing stones. “In fact, I wish these people, instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I (want to do),” he said.
If people in any country lose fear of the Army, the country is doomed, he said. “Adversaries must be afraid of you and at the same time your people must be afraid of you. We are a friendly Army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us.” He said that maximum restraint is being maintained while handling the situation in the Valley.
Venkaiah Naidu extends support for Major Gogoi
“Anybody who has national interest at heart will support Major Gogoi. Why this sympathy with separatists, why sympathy with people who are trying to create problem... who pelt stones?” said Union minister Venkaiah Naidu in a TV interview