Did Major Gogoi make the right decision?

Source : SIFY
Author : Varun Sukumar
Last Updated: Thu, May 25th, 2017, 21:11:49hrs
Did Major Gogoi make the right decision?
Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi may be winning praise and support from many of his fellow countrymen, but in Kashmir, there is widespread outrage across the ideological divide, even among including the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after the Indian Army felicitated the major despite a court of inquiry report yet to be tabled.

The report in question is related to investigating Major Gogoi’s actions where he strapped a Kashmiri shawl-weaver named Farooq Ahmad Dar to the front bumper of a military jeep on 9 April, the day by-polls were held in Srinagar parliamentary constituency. The Major said that Dar was a stone-pelter and deserved what he got.

PDP general secretary Nizamudin Bhat speaking of the issue of honoring the major said it was ‘improper’ and ‘not the right decision’. Speaking to reporters, he further added "PDP's stand is that such incidents are bad for public perception and should be probed. If he (Gogoi) has been rewarded for this bravado, I don't feel this is proper,"

As reported in Firstpost, Moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said, “Such Fascist mindsets are increasingly on display in India, especially in dealing with the people of Kashmir and minorities in the name of nationalism. And the jingoistic Indian media is fanning its flames."

A Court of Inquiry (CoI) was convened by the Army on April 15 two days after an FIR was filed. They arrived at the conclusion and cleared Major Gogoi of any wrong doing.

Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in an op-ed in the New Indian Express states that Major Gogoi is wrong. He writes –

“…Even if he had been a stone-pelter, the army resorting to using an Indian citizen as a human shield is a moral and legal question that needs to be answered in congruence with the fundamental rights enshrined in our constitution, our laws and the principles we have vowed to protect as a democratic nation.”

He goes on to write –

“The “use of a civilian as a ‘human shield’ to protect his men from a stone-pelting mob” is astounding. Since when is our army allowed to subvert the fundamental rights of our citizens to save itself in extraordinary situations? To reiterate — the construct, that tying Farooq Ahmed Dar to the bonnet of the jeep was an extraordinary act that resulted in the prevention of violence and the consequent loss of lives, is at best a hypothesis in foresight and, at worst, outright blackmail.”

Major Gogoi gave his side of the story speaking to a select group of reporters where he said “I did this only to save local people. Had I fired, there would have been more than 12 casualties. With this idea, I saved many peoples' lives.”

Farooq Dar said in a statement coming a day after Indian Army commended Major Gogoi, that read in part “The army major is lying to save himself.” He then goes on to say “Had I been the ringleader of stone-pelting mobs, why would I have cast my vote?” Dar told the Hindustan Times on Tuesday, “I won’t vote again after what they did to me. I will boycott voting.”

A report in Firtspost quotes Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik who termed the army officer's commendation as an "act of naked fascism". He goes on say “This is why we find the Indian Army, security forces and the police are killing Kashmiris with impunity, maiming and blinding people shamelessly, and oppressing humans openly.”

In a piece for the Hindustan Times, Harinder Baweja writes

“The fact that Gogoi had stripped a civilian of his right to life and liberty came unmasked only after a video showing the shawl weaver strapped to a jeep bonnet was made public on social media. Was Gogoi aware – within himself – that he had perhaps crossed the line? Was that the reason he had not revealed his actions to his superiors?”

“The commendation for Gogoi adds another layer to the already complex reality of Kashmir: Dar now stands identified as one of the minuscule few who risked their life by walking to a polling booth. Given the current mood in the Valley, where even mainstream political parties are getting marginalized, the shawl weaver suffers social humiliation for favoring democracy and is of course, a victim of army excesses because human shields are a complete no-no, as per the Geneva convention, even in a non-combative situation.”

Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said o the media on Wednesday “How a situation is to be dealt with when you are in a war-like zone... we should allow our Army officers to take a decision. They don't have to consult MPs on what they should do under these circumstances,"

The Hindu Editorial states that the army commending a soldier still under probe for use of a human shield is unfortunate. It says –

“Without casting any doubt whatsoever about Major Gogoi’s “sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”, it is impossible but to conclude that the timing of the award sends a truly unfortunate message, one that risks a loss of public confidence in the Court of Inquiry, ordered by the Army itself.”

The Editorial goes on to highlight the role of the army in a potentially dangerous place like Kashmir, but with rules –

“The Indian Army prides itself on a long and honorable tradition in guarding the Republic; indeed, it operates in places such as Kashmir in extremely trying circumstances that risk life and limb. But surely it must accept that the rules of conduct for men in uniform must be adhered to, despite the difficulties in doing so…”

The Deccan Herald Editorial shares similar concerns and bemoans the commending of the soldier as it states -

“Major Gogoi has tried to justify his action by claiming that he was trying to save lives. The action also found support among some unthinking sections and clamoring TV anchors driven by a false sense of ultra nationalism. But right-thinking people have condemned it and have seen it as another low touched by the army in its conduct in Kashmir.”

Harinder Baweja in the Hindustan Times writes

“In the end, the army has only harmed itself and its own image. In the intricate security apparatus comprising local police and paramilitary forces, the army stood out for its WHAM approach: ‘win hearts and minds’. By honoring Gogoi, it has lost more than just Dar’s heart and mind.”

More columns by Varun Sukumar