Controversy has escalated over last month’s Kashmir Human Shield incident in which Major Leetul Gogoi had strapped an alleged stone pelter on an army vehicle to save lives of people he was trying to rescue. On Wednesday, Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah denounced as “farce” the Army’s court of inquiry against Major Gogoi in connection with the incident. Omar reacted after Major Gogoi was honoured by Army chief General Bipin Rawat recently with a ‘Commendation Card’ “for his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”. Omar had first shared a video of the incident on Twitter last month.
While questions have been raised on whether the man should have been used as a human shield against violent stone pelters, who were not willing to relent, or not, here we take a look at how Major Gogoi has narrated the incident and saved many lives with one decision:
This is what Major Gogoi told media on Tuesday:
“The incident occurred on April 9. On 9th of April, there was by-election in Budgaon. And myself, with close coordination of security forces and state police, we conducted it smoothly. On the same day at 9.15 am, I received a call from an officer-in-charge of Utligam and Gundipura polling station. He was from ITBP. He informed me that around 400-500 people had gathered in Gundipura and they were pelting stones on the civil polling staff and ITBP people, who were inside the polling stations.
“And without wasting any time, myself, with my quick reaction team, rushed towards Gundipura. While moving towards Gundipura, we encountered many roadblocks, which we cleared and we moved ahead for Gundipura. Within 30 minutes we reached Gundipura and there we took control of the situation. We dispersed the mob. And further, myself, along with my four boys, went inside the polling booth, just to check whether the security forces and the civil staff were safe and secure.
“In the meantime, again I received a call at 10.30 am from the same ITBP officer and it was a distress call. He informed me that around 1200 people had surrounded them at Utligam polling station and they were trying to burn down the polling station by hurling petrol bombs. By hearing this on my phone, I immediately rushed to the scenario, which was at a distance of 1.5 km from Gundipura. And while moving towards Utligam, again we encountered many roadblocks, which we further cleared and reached the spot.
“When we reached the spot, already the crowd had started pelting stones on us and at that time it included ladies and children. We were unable to move out from the vehicle. And they were even hurling stone boulders from rooftops. That was a time when I was unable to move out. Even I was making repeated announcement through my megaphone that we had just arrived there to rescue the polling staff and the ITBP people who were struck inside the polling station. But the crowd was not listening to me. And at that moment, I saw a person — a short person — standing at a distance of 30 metres from my vehicle.
“I immediately told my QRT boys to catch hold of him. And, on my direction, my QRT boys and me immediately moved out of our vehicle and started running towards the stone-pelter. We found later on that he was the person who was instigating them and he might be the ring leader. On seeing us, that we were moving towards him, he started running towards the crowd. He got on a bike and tried to flee away from the scene. But somehow, despite intense stone pelting and getting hurt, we caught hold of him. He was known by the name Mr Farooq Ahmed Dar, who is a resident of Chil and the incident happened at Utligam, which was at a distance of 20 km from his residence. After holding him, we started walking towards the polling booth. Before reaching the polling booth, there was a mine-protected vehicle, with its help we moved towards the polling station.
“Once we got inside the polling station, there were four civil polling staff, seven ITBP persons and one Jammu and Kashmir police constable. From there we safely started moving towards the road. In the meantime, my mine-protected vehicle got stuck in a muddy area and again the stone pelting started. And at that time, there was also an announcement made in a mosque. With the announcement, civilians started gathering there and this time they were more violent, even they had thrown a petrol bomb at us but somehow the petrol bomb did not blast. And after seeing this, I instructed my boys to somehow move my mine-protected vehicle from that area. And they tried to do it. And we managed to rescue the mine-protected vehicle.
“In the meantime again, I announced in my megaphone to give us safe passage so that we can move out from the area. But the crowd was not listening to us. At that moment of time, suddenly in my mind, the idea of tying him (Dar) up on t0 the vehicle came. As soon as I ordered by 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. 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.”