An Indian Army court on Monday exonerated Major Nitin Gogoi over the issue of tying a youth, Farooq Ahmad Dar, as a “human shield” to the bonnet of a moving jeep in Jammu and Kashmir’s Budgam on 9 April, as a last resort and which he said was done to “avoid” stone pelting on the armed forces.
Earlier, the police had registered a FIR against unnamed army personnel on April 17 for tying Dar with a jeep on April 13, the day re-poll was held in 38-polling booths of Srinagar Lok Sabha seat. According to the police investigation, Dar was used as a human shield under threat and was kept under wrongful confinement by the Army.
The army had ordered a Court of Inquiry on April 20 against the Major who tied Farooq Ahmad Dar of Chill Bras area in Khansahib segment of Budgam district in front of his jeep to “safeguard” paramilitary forces and polling staff from stone-pelters. The Court of Inquiry had been given one month’s time to complete the probe.
The convoy of five Indian Army vehicles led by Major Gogoi reportedly consisted of soldiers, 12 election officials, nine jawans from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and two policemen. Gogoi decided to tie the civilian to the jeep in order to deter stone-pelters, who had become more active in Jammu and Kashmir in recent times.
Major Nitin Gogoi is a pass-out from the Army Cadet College and belongs to the Indian Army’s 53 Rashtriya Rifles. The Army Cadet College provides training to soldiers from the Army, Navy and Air Force to be commissioned as officers in the Indian Army.
Major Gogoi, who was leading the convoy, had volunteered to serve in Kashmir. He took the call in order to prevent direct confrontation between the mob and the army, a scenario that would have ended in bloodshed.
According to reports, a Quick Reaction Team of the army was called in prevent escalation of hostilities, but the numerical superiority of the stone-pelting mob made it almost impossible for the convoy to move. “They would have been lynched by 400 people,” the report quoted a source as saying.
According to sources, to the army believes that Major Gogoi’s timely decision saved many lives and prevented confrontation.
They said no action was recommended against the major from 53-Rashtriya Rifles battalion by the Court of Inquiry and he was given a clean chit. “Not disciplinary action was recommended against the officer and he was congratulated for his acumen and presence of mind to avoid civilian casualties,” sources revealed.
“No action has been recommended against the Major,” the report said, quoting a source, who added that “court martial is out of the question”. According to the report, senior officers have reportedly termed it a ‘one-off incident that was blown out of proportion’.
Another source told the channel: “In the Army, attaining the objective is more important. The means used by the officer could have been different, but the objective was perfectly met.”
According to the report, the investigation into the matter had been ordered by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti after the video went viral online. The army, meanwhile, conducted its own internal probe into the matter.
The Centre also decided to back Major Gogoi, after an army probe concluded that the officer was forced ake the decision as a last-minute resort to stop rampaging stone-pelters.
Indian Army had said Farooq Ahmad Dar, the civilian who was tied to the jeep, was a stone-pelter, but he denied the allegation and said he was returning home after casting his vote when the soldiers picked him up and tied him to the bonnet of their jeep, which was leading the convoy.