Farooq Ahmed Dar, the Kashmiri embroidery artist used as a “human shield” by the Indian Army last year, claimed he has been shunned by fellow villagers for participating in the electoral process.
On April 9, 2017, Dar was tied to an Army jeep with a note pinned to his chest that read, “This will be the fate of stone-pelters.” A resident of Chill village in Budgam district, Dar had just cast his vote for the Srinagar parliamentary bye-election when the Army picked him up.
An investigation into the incident found Dar was on his way to his sister’s house for a condolence meeting after voting when the Army stopped him, beat him up, tied him to the jeep and paraded him through 28 villages. Both central investigating agencies and the police confirm Dar’s account of the day – countering the Army’s claim that he was a stone-pelter.
A year later, 28-year-old Dar said he has been suffering from insomnia and depression since the incident. He told PTI in a video interview that he has not been able to find a job even as a manual labourer.
“What was my mistake?” Dar said during the interview with PTI. “Going to the polling booth and casting my ballot? I regret going out of my house that day.”
While the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission had asked the state government to pay Dar Rs 10 lakh compensation, the PDP-BJP government rejected it saying there were no rules under which it could pay the money.
The head of the International Forum for Justice and Human Rights group in the Valley, Mohammad Ashan Untoo, has filed a review petition against the decision to not give Dar compensation. A plea has also been filed in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
“The news about the compensation made this worse for me,” Dar said. “People in my neighbourhood made sarcastic remarks about the compensation and criticised me for seeking justice for myself.” Dar said he should be hanged if anyone could prove that he was pelting stones. “Or, punish those responsible for my present condition,” he added.