New Delhi Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a civilian from Central Kashmir to a military jeep purportedly as a shield against stone pelters, has been awarded by the Army for his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations.
The Army Chiefs Commendation Card for Major Gogoi is seen as an indication that he is unlikely to be implicated for the incident by a Court of Inquiry which the Army maintains is still going on.
“Major Gogoi has been awarded Chief of Army Staffs Commendation Card for sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations,” Army spokesperson Col Aman Anand said.
These operations, they added, include the actions of the Major on April 9 during the Srinagar by-election, when a civilian was tied to the bonnet of an Army vehicle and paraded through tense villages of Budgam district on the polling day.
Army sources say the Major, belonging to the 53 Rashtriya Rifles, took an on-the-spot decision and picked up passerby, 36 year old Farooq Ahmad Dar and tied him to the lead vehicle as his soldiers were passing through an area where there was intense stone-throwing.
Once soldiers came out to the safety, Farooq was handed over to the local authorities.
Farooq, however, has a different story to narrate. He claims he was picked up when he was on way to his sister’s house, where a bereavement had occurred. He also claimed he was moved around 10-12 villages before being let off.
The video of the incident instantly went viral and triggered a public outcry, prompting the Jammu and Kashmir police to register an FIR against the army.
On 15 April, the Army constituted a court of inquiry in the incident, and a report is pending.
The CoI was tasked to look into the circumstance that prompted Major Gogoi to tie the Kashmiri youth to the jeeps bonnet as a “human shield”.
Sources said Major Gogoi was given the award during Gen Bipin Rawats visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week.
The Army Chiefs Commendation Card is considered a prestigious award and is given for distinguished services and devotion to duties.
On Friday, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley backed the actions of the officer, saying he had the responsibility to save the lives of those involved in the by-election that day.
However former Commanding Officer of the Northern Command Lt General HS Panag stated at the time of the incident that the image (of the human shield) would end up being the defining image of the Indian Army, just like the Napalm girl was for the Vietnam war.
FRESH CONTROVERSY OVER PARESH RAWAL’S TWEET
The Army’s announcement incidentally came on a day when actor turned BJP MP Paresh Rawal kicked up a row by saying that celebrated author Arundhati Roy should be tied to an army jeep instead of a stone-pelter.
“Instead of tying stone pelter on the army jeep tie Arundhati Roy (sic)!” the Rawal tweeted, taking a swipe at the author who has been a trenchant critic of the BJP and the Army action in the Valley.
His tweet drew condemnation from many users on the social media platform with some accusing him of inciting violence.
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