SRINAGAR: Embroidery artisan Farooq Ahmed Dar -- tied to the bonnet of a jeep and paraded around town -- today said he was not a stone pelter, but a "small man" who had only gone out to vote. Dar denied allegations that he was among a group of people pelting security forces with stones in the Valley -- as alleged at a press conference here by Major Leetul Gogoi, the army officer who tied him to the jeep. "If that were the case, they should have handed me over to the police," Dar said.
He added that he was dismayed to hear that the Major had been awarded a commendation certificate for bravery. "Is dragging a person for kilometres on end an act of bravery," he asked. Dar said, recalling the April 9 incident, that he had gone to vote for the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency election, defying calls from militant groups to boycott the bypoll.
He was near Village Rayar, where he had gone to offer condolences to his brother-in-law for a death in the family, when he said he was picked up by the Major and used as a "human shield" against stone pelters in Kashmir. "I was moved around in circles through many villages before I was dropped off at Rayar in front of the 13 Rashtriya Rifle camp of the Army," he said.
The Major, however, claimed before the media that Dar had been caught throwing stones at Army personnel. Dar said he was untied by his brother and the village's sarpanch.
A video of Dar tied to the bonnet of the jeep went viral, triggering a public outcry. Some former general also said the move went against the "ethos" of the Indian Army. The outrage prompted the Army to institute a probe into the incident.
The Jammu and Kashmir police also registered a case. The artisan said he was yet to be called by the police or the Army -- which has instituted a court of inquiry into the incident of April 9 -- for his side of the story. "It is a complete eyewash," he said about the inquiry. "They were never serious. I am a small man and why should anyone care," Dar told PTI from his home in Chill in Budgam district. More than a month after the incident, he said his statement was still to be registered. The newly appointed Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range), Munir Khan, had said earlier in Sopore that the police would carry out an investigation into the matter and that the FIR had not been quashed, as many feared. “An FIR means the beginning of an investigation. So once an FIR is lodged, the investigation begins. Whatever comes out in the investigation is a separate matter, but the investigation will take place and it will be seen what is right and what is wrong,” Khan said while replying to questions about the probe. The incident came up again when Major Gogoi was honoured yesterday with the Army Chief’s commendation card for “his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”. "I wonder whether tying a person to a jeep are his efforts in counter-insurgency operations," Dar said, regretting having stepped out of his home to vote. "I voted and was apparently penalised for this," he said.
His life, he said, had changed after this incident. "People keep looking at me," the 27-year-old man who earns his living by embroidering shawls said. Dar believed the state and central governments were trying to "bury the truth".
The state police, which came into action after the video went viral on social networking sites, registered a case of abduction with an intent to cause grievous hurt, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation. "Information was received by the Beerwah Police station through reliable sources on April 9, 2017, that on the polling day of Parliament elections a news item was being telecast that a person identified as Farooq Ahmed Dar had been illegally confined by army personnel," the FIR said.
It said he had been tied with a rope to an army vehicle at Ghondipora and turned into a human shield. "On this information, the case has been registered and investigation taken up," the FIR filed in Urdu said.