The case of the Kashmiri used as a human shield by an Army major has sharply polarised public opinion. Those supporting the move, which includes both the government and the Army, say the young major’s quick thinking saved lives. Others, including some retired military officials, say it exposes and actually encourages the military’s disdain for human rights, adding fuel to the uprising in the Valley.
The controversy was sparked off April 14 when former J&K CM Omar Abdullah took to social media to post a video of a man tied to the front of an Indian Army jeep being driven through a Budgam village, with a poster across his chest declaring him a stone-pelter. Things took a curious turn when the victim, Farooq Ahmed Dar, claimed he was returning after voting in the bypolls when he was picked up by the Army, mercilessly beaten, and then driven around several villages tied to the front of a military jeep.
Major Leetul Gogoi, blamed for the incident, however, said he did it to save lives, and that Dar was the leader of a 1,200-strong stone-pelting crowd threatening to set a polling booth ablaze with some security and poll personnel inside. “This thing I have done only to save the local people. Had I fired, there would have been more than 12 casualties” during his rescue mission, he said. While the Army responded by commending him for his quick thinking, others condemned it as military high-handedness.
The local police say the FIR registered against Gogoi remains valid and they will pursue the case. But they need to ask some hard questions. One, why is there no voter ink visible on any of Dar’s fingers in the news videos taken barely two days after the incident? Two, if he was indeed beaten mercilessly, to verge of death, as he claims, why are there no clear injury marks on his face or upper torso, bar a bandage on his wrist? The answers to these questions will probably throw up some even more intriguing aspects of the entire incident.