Human Shield: Army Probe Gives Major Clean Chit?

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SRINAGAR: Reports wrongly give a clean chit to army officer who tied a Kashmiri youth to a moving jeep and using him as a human shield, said a report by news agency PTI after a report in another news agency IANS claimed that a court of Inquiry had exonerated the officer.

IANS, in fact, reported that army sources said Major Nitin Gogol had been praised by the Court of Inquiry for “presence of mind” by tying a youth to a moving jeep in Budgam on April 9 to “avoid” stone pelting on troops.

The Army had ordered a probe by the Army Court of Inquiry (COI) after police registered an FIR for the incident when an Army Major tied 34 year old Farooq Ahmad Dar to the bonnet of a jeep as a human shield.

However, PTI then reported that army sources had said that it was still to conclude the inquiry. The Court of Inquiry (CoI) into the controversial “human shield” incident in Kashmir is still carrying on, PTI reported quoting army sources.

PTI said the sources had denied reports that the CoI had given a clean chit to the major and said a final conclusion was still to be reached.

A video, showing the Farooq tied to an army vehicle during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election on April 9, had triggered a public outcry, prompting the Army to institute a probe.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah had expressed shock, posting on Twitter, “This young man was tied to the front of an army jeep to make sure no stones were thrown at the jeep? This is just so shocking!”

He had called for an inquiry: “A warning can be heard (in the video) saying stone pelters will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry and follow up now.”

The video had reportedly been shot in the Beerwah area of Budgam district during bypoll to the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. It was widely shared on social media and drew global condemnation.

The video showed the army jeep moving ahead of an army patrol, while some villagers could be overheard that the youth had been picked by the army.

Police later filed an FIR against the army. The police registered the FIR against the army’s 53 Rashtriya Rifles unit in the Beerwah police station in Budgam district.

According to the report, the investigation into the matter had been ordered by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti after the video went viral online. The army, meanwhile, conducted its own internal probe into the matter.

SUPPORT FOR MAJOR

The Centre also decided to back Major Gogol, after an army probe concluded that the officer was forced to to take the decision as a last-minute resort to stop rampaging stone-pelters.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitender Singh, supported the accused Major.

“It was one of those spur of the moment decisions. If the Major got away without hurting anybody, it’s a great job done. If it has to be done again, it should be done again. We are 100% backing the army and the Major,” Rohatgi said in an interview to CNN-News18.

Army said the officer took the extreme step as it was his last option while trying to rescue a team of 12 polling staff, 9 ITBP soldiers and two officers from the Jammu and Kashmir Police who were trapped inside a booth.

The booth in Budgam area was targeted by hundreds of stone-pelters, including women, who were positioned on rooftops. The Major picked up Farooq and tied him to the lead vehicle of the convoy.

Farooq was handed over to the local authorities after the convoy reached safe environs.

Farooq, however had said that he was picked up when he was on his way to his sister’s house to attend a condolence meeting. Dar also claimed that he was paraded through 10-12 villages before being let off.

The video, shot by bystanders, triggered strong reactions against the army.

With inputs from agencies

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