The Human Rights Commission, Jammu and Kashmir on Monday directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs10 lakh in its judgement, to twenty-six-year-old Farooq Ahmad Dar, an embroidery artisan, who was used as a “human shield” by the Army during the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll.
“The order shall be complied by the state government within six weeks time,” the report observed, adding that the chief secretary of the state shall file compliance report before the commission within the same period.
According to reports the compensation awarded to Dar was for the ‘’humiliation, physical and psychiatric torture, stress, wrongful restraint and confinement’ that he underwent when he was tied to the bonnet of an Army vehicle allegedly by Major Leetul Gogoi of 53 Rashtriya Rifles on 19 April to ward off stone pelters, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) observed in its judgement.
Saying that “such a treatment to human being can’t be accepted by any civilised society”, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) has directed the J-K government to pay rupees ten lakhs as compensation to Farooq Ahmad Dar, a civilian tied to the Bonnet of the vehicle by Army on April 9. The Commission thinks it appropriate to direct the state government to pay compensation of Rs 10 lakhs to the victim”.
“The report of the police accepts that Farooq Ahmad Dar was tied to bonnet of a vehicle by the Army on April 9th and used as human shield. There are laws in this country and international laws which prohibit such a treatment even to a convict. Such a treatment to human being cannot be accepted in a civilized society,” said Justice (Retd) Bilal Nazki in his five-page order. Nazki is the chairperson of the State Human Rights Commission.
While denouncing the act by the army, Justice Nazki referred to the Supreme Court’s celebrated Prem Shankar Shukla judgement to remind the state of its responsibility, “…to bind a man hand-and-foot, fetter his limbs with hoops of steel, shuffle him along in the streets and stand him for hours in the courts is to torture him, defile his dignity, vulgarise society and foul the soul of our constitutional culture. Where then do we draw the humane line and how far do the rules err in print and praxis.”
The SHRC chairperson said, “This commission chose not to issue any notice to the central government or the armed forces, but the fact remains that the protection of life and liberty of the people is basic responsibility of the state government,” the judgement said.
Even if the state government sought the assistance of central forces to deal with the law and order situation, the responsibility of the state government to protect its citizens and their rights “cannot be diluted or abdicated”, Justice (retd) Nazki observed.
Reflecting on the role of the army unit involved in the incident, the SHRC said it was “handicapped” when it comes to holding the army responsible for its acts because of the “limited applicability” of the Protection of the Human Rights Act of 1993.
The action of using Dar as a “human shield” by the Army though criticised by several human rights activists and political parties including separatist groups, was hailed by the Indian Army as a precaution against stone pelters. In fact, Gogoi was awarded a commendation by Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat.
Reflecting that the Army supports Major Gogoi’s action, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat had awarded COAS (Chief of Army Staff) commendation for sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations to him during a recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking to media, the Officer Major Gogoi, himself came out in the open and explained how he saved so many lives without using a single bullet. “The crowd was not listening to us. At that moment of time, suddenly in my mind, the idea of tying him (Dar) up on to the vehicle came. As soon as I ordered boys to tie him up in the vehicle, stone pelting had stopped for a while and that was the fraction of the moment when I got a window to come out safely from that place. Immediately I asked all my boys to get inside the vehicle and we moved out from the area,” Gogoi had said.
“This thing, I did only to save the local people. Had I fired, there would have been more than 12 casualties, which I didn’t do. But with this idea, I have saved many people’s lives. There were 1200 stone pelters and those whom I went to rescue,” he added.
Dar had filed the case with the SHRC through Mohammad Ehsan Untoo, human rights activist and chairman of International Forum for Justice and Human Rights.
“The army conduct has been draconian in the case and they have trampled the human rights of a innocent man. No action is taken against the officers by the concerned authorities and it is shameful that the office is being shielded, when ideally he should have been behind the bars. The police have already registered a case of wrongful confinement,” Untoo said, while demanding strong action against the army officials involved in the case.