Major Leetul Gogoi, accused of using a civilian as a human shield against stone-pelters in Kashmir on April 9, on Tuesday defended his actions saying it was a do-or-die situation. Gogoi said the armed forces personnel involved were able to save several lives as no bullets were fired during the incident.
Speaking to mediapersons, Gogoi said an Indo-Tibetan Border Police official had informed him that a mob was assaulting a polling booth with stones. “We had gone to a polling booth to check the security situation, and then some people started pelting stones at us. Then stone-pelters started throwing petrol bombs at us, I took that step just to save local people.”
Gogoi said that during the incident, the civilian used as the human shield identified as Farooq Dar, was perceived as the probable “ring-leader” who was “instigating the stone-pelters”. Describing Dar as a “short person” at the front of the crowd, Gogoi admitted to ordering his team members to tie him to the vehicle to ensure their protection from the mob.
Soon after the incident took place, a video of an Army jeep driving through villages near Srinagar with Dar strapped to it had gone viral on social media. Pinned to his chest was a note warning that this “would be the fate of stone pelters”. Though the Army never issued a statement about the incident, the general impression created was that Gogoi decided to take this step because he was on a mission to rescue security personnel trapped in a polling booth by a mob. Gogoi is an officer with the 53 Rashtriya Rifles Battalion.
However, Dar claimed that he was not part of a mob and had actually been detained while on his way to a condolence meeting.
The action had led to widespread debate, with many commenting that security officials using people as human shields is illegal by international law. On April 13, the Jammu and Kashmir police filed an FIR at the Beerwa police station in Budgam district, where the video was believed to have been shot. The Army, on May 15, had denied reports that Gogoi had been exonerated in the case. The matter escalated further on Monday, when Chief of Army Staff Bipin Rawat gave him a commendation card for his “sustained efforts” on counter-insurgency. A day later, the Jammu and Kashmir Police clarified that the investigation against Gogoi would continue.