The indictment of the Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi for fraternizing with a woman has done little to moderate cynicism about the perceived lack of accountability among the security agencies in Kashmir. The reason for this is that the same Major was let off by the Army for using a civilian Farooq Dar as the human shield last year. The incident had made Gogoi a household name in the country. Though the Army later initiated an enquiry against him, the ruling political class rose to his defence. What is more, even before the Army could complete its investigation, the Army chief General Bipin Rawat honoured Gogoi with a Chief of Army Staff (COAS) commendation card for his sustained valour in counter insurgency efforts. As a result Gogoi became a hero among sections of people in the country who also defended him on social media. But in Kashmir he was widely seen as a villain and, in many ways, a symbolic representation of the alleged state oppression, a perception reinforced further by the Army chiefs award for him. One biggest casualty of the reward to Major Gogoi was New Delhis already eroded moral high ground in and on Kashmir.
This is why, the hotel incident in May came as cathartic, a vindication of the public belief about Gogois wrong-doing in human shield incident last year. The incident was seen as a deserved comeuppance for the Army officer for what he had done to Dar. The Major along with the girl had arrived at the hotel in the afternoon. There was a scuffle when the hotel receptionist suspecting something was wrong took exception to the girl going with him to his booked room. But once again, Major Gogoi didnt run short of the people who were ready to defend him on social media. Many well-regarded journalists, civil society and political activists called togetherness of the Kashmiri girl and Gogoi as consensual, even without any knowledge of why they were together and what they were up to.
In Kashmir, people were keen to see how the case is handled, both by the Army and the police which initially was reluctant to officially name him. No action against Gogoi in the case would certainly have gone according to expectations in Kashmir but holding him guilty for going out with the woman hasnt helped either. The majority of people in the state have tended to see the development in terms of the Army underlining its differential yardsticks for the human rights violations by its personnel and their indiscipline in the discharge of the duty. While the former deserves an award, the later an exemplary punishment, promised by no less than the Army chief himself. So far from restoring faith, the development has only deepened the current cynicism towards the state apparatus and further otherized people. For it to gain confidence in Kashmir, the Army would have to be more sensitive to the human rights violations in the state.
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