The Jammu and Kashmir human rights commission today directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Farooq Ahmad Dar, who was used as a “human shield” by the Army against stone-pelters three months back. The central government, however, opposed any compensation to Dar, saying there should be no sympathy with stone-pelters. 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 to ward off stone-pelters, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) said in its judgement. “I have no doubt in my mind that Farooq Ahmad was subjected to torture and humiliation, besides (being) wrongly confined,” the judgement issued by SHRC chairperson Justice (retd) Bilal Nazki said. He observed that the action led to trauma, resulting in psychiatric stress “which may remain with him for the rest of his life”.
The commission asked the J&K government to comply with the direction within six weeks. The judgement is recommendatory in nature and would need the approval of the state government for implementation. In New Delhi, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu said, “There is no question of giving compensation to people who pelt stones. I have no sympathies for such people.” Naidu said Major Leetul Gogoi, who tied Dar to a jeep to ward off stone-pelters during the by-poll to Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency in April this year, saved lives of Election Commission officials and police personnel, and the entire country “appreciates” that. “For the humiliation, physical and psychiatric torture, stress, wrongful restraint and confinement, the commission thinks it appropriate to direct the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the victim,” the SHRC said. “The chief secretary of the state shall file a compliance report before the commission within the same period,” the ruling read. “I do not agree with them (SHRC). Pelting stones is inhuman, hurting army personnel is also inhuman. I do not know how this order has been given. We are not in agreement with their attitude,” said Naidu on the sidelines of an event in Delhi. Stone-pelting is being done at the behest of “people from outside” which has been exposed by a sting operation by some TV channels”, Naidu said.
The Congress played it safe, with its spokesman Manish Tewari saying it was between the SHRC and the person who approached the rights body. “The State Human Rights Commission is a judicial Body, is it is a quasi-judicial. If they have given some judgment which honestly I have not pursued and without perusing I do not comment on Court judgments. But it is really between the person affected, the Human Rights Commission and the party to whom the directions have been given,” he said. Tewari further said that he thinks possibly we had a Constitutional Scheme and under the Constitutional Scheme, State Human Rights Bodies and a National Human Rights Commission do enjoy a statutory status.
“So, therefore, it is appropriate that we leave it at that,” he said. The judgement came on an application moved by Ahsan Antoo, chairman, International Forum for Justice and Protection of Human Rights. Justice (retd) Nazki said the police in its report had said Dar was tied to the Army vehicle bonnet and used as a human shield, but observed that the commission was “handicapped” by the fact that it could not refer to the conduct of the Army because of the limited applicability of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993. “There cannot be any debate as to whether the treatment given to Dar was a violation of human rights or not. There are laws in this country, and international laws, which prohibit such a treatment even to a convict. Such treatment to a human being cannot be accepted by a civilised society,” he said. The commission, however, was “handicapped” by the fact that it could not go into the conduct of the Army who are allegedly responsible for the incident according to Dar as well as the state police, he said. The SHRC chairperson said that in view of the police report, Dar has been subjected to human rights violations and, therefore, the state government could not escape from the responsibility.
“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. He, however, said that since the SHRC was not able to go into question of the Army’s responsibility, “the commission clarifies that any observation made in this order should not be taken as an expression of any opinion regarding the alleged involvement of officers of the Indian Army,” he said. Dar, an embroidery artisan, was tied to a jeep by Major Leetul Gogoi, as a shield against the stone pelters who had allegedly surrounded a group of armed personnel. Shortly after the incident, Major Gogoi was honoured with a commendation card by the Army chief for “his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”.