The Indian Army Major, Leetul Gogoi, who stirred controversy by using a civilian in Kashmir as a human shield, has been awarded by Army chief General Bipin Rawat. Gogoi had tied a civilian on his jeep’s bonnet as a ‘human shield’ to rescue over a dozen security and election personnel from a stone-pelting mob in Jammu and Kashmir in April.
The decision of awarding the Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card to Gogoi is being seen as a deliberate statement of intent by the government and the Army about hard-headed approach towards dealing with the worsening conditions in Kashmir.
The incident had drawn criticism from many for violating human rights and the Geneva Convention. However, the award, which is a mark below gallantry medals, conferred on Gogoi by the Army suggests that it has brushed aside any criticisms.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah had uploaded a video on Twitter and demanded a court of inquiry into the incident.
The J&K Police subsequently lodged an FIR in the case on April 13, after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti demanded action against the soldiers involved in the incident.
The court of inquiry was convened by the Army on April 15, and it gave a clean chit to the Major. The Army had also asked Farooq Dar, the civilian who was tied to the jeep, to come to the court of inquiry, which was headed by an officer of the rank of Colonel, and record his statement.
The court of inquiry did not recommend any action against the officer. “Court martial is out of the question. Not even disciplinary action was recommended against the officer,” a source was quoted by India Today as saying.
The government and the Army believe that no space should be given to either militants or stone-pelters, who actively try to disrupt counter-insurgency operations, a senior officer said.
The Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, during his visit to the Kashmir valley last week, had told his top commanders that he had decided to award the COAS commendation card to Gogoi for “his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations as well as his presence of mind and initiative to prevent bloodshed.”
Army officers have disregarded the widespread backlash Gogoi faced, and said that the Major showed “effective out-of-the-box thinking” to rescue the trapped personnel without firing a shot in a situation that could have easily spiralled out of control.