Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi, who tied a Kashmiri man to a jeep as a human shield against stone-pelters, was honoured with the Army Chief’s Commendation Card for his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations. It has been learned that Gogoi was awarded by General Bipin Rawat during his visit to Srinagar on May 1, according to Indian Express report. The Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation Card is considered a prestigious award and routinely announced on Independence Day and Republic Day. Recently, the Army Chief has given 15-20 on the spot commendation cards.
According to the report, General Rawat declared the award at the 15 Corps Headquarters at Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar during his visit on May 1-2 but Gogoi was not present at the location.
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An Army probe into the initial case is still on. Court of Inquiry’s report has been finalised, but is yet to be approved by the convening authority, the report says.
Gogoi, a Major in the 53 Rashtriya Rifles, has defended his action. The central government had backed the officer with Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu saying the major saved lives under exceptional circumstances.
Recalling the circumstances in which he had ordered Farooq Ahmed Dar to be tied to the bonnet of the vehicle, Gogoi said about 1200 stone-pelters had surrounded a small group of security personnel at a polling booth in Utligam village of Budgam district on April 9 and if he had ordered firing, there could have been many casualties.
Gogoi said he and five other army personnel had gone to that polling booth after a “distress call” fro a small group of ITBP personnel and a few members of the polling staff being surrounded by a big crowd.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said he would have done the same had he been in Gogoi’s place. Singh, who served in the Army in the mid 1960s, said Major Leetul Gogoi exemplified a high level of presence of mind and daring, and that the Army cannot be expected to deal with such “stone-pelting mobs with one hand tied behind their backs”.
The chief minister lashed out at those asking for the officer’s court-martial, saying they clearly had no inkling of the way the Army works and the traditions which continue to make it a unique institution rooted in a distinctive culture of valour and courage.
Singh, who was the first to demand an award for the daring Major, hailed the Army for backing him despite criticism in certain quarters of his action “as it was important to send out a strong signal to show that the Indian Army was neither weak nor were our officers underdogs”.
While he upheld the importance of human rights in a civilized society, Singh asserted that human rights could not be allowed to be used as a shield for lawlessness.
The security personnel who risk their lives every day for protecting the common people of the land also have human rights, he said.