PUDR strongly condemns the commendation conferred on Major Leetul Gogoi by none less than the Army Chief for taking Farooq Dar hostage, tying Dar to the front of his jeep allegedly to ward off attacking stone-pelters, and then driving around for several hours to warn people that a similar fate awaited them. The incident where Dar was used as a human shield occurred in Budgam district in Kashmir on 9th April 2017. The award has brought to pass what the Punjab CM, Capt. Amarinder Singh had vociferously advocated on 20th May.
The Commendation is an official endorsement of the use of human shields and needs to be condemned for the following reasons:
1.The use of human shields violates the fundamental rights of life and liberty guaranteed by the Indian constitution to every citizen. The state is duty bound to protect these rights. In awarding rather than prosecuting Major Gogoi, the Army has not only abdicated its constitutional and legal responsibility, but also become party to such violations.
2.It is also in contravention of international instruments such as the common article three of Geneva Convention (1949), Protocols 1-3 which prohibit taking civilians hostage and cruel and degrading treatment of any person in all conflict situations. India is a signatory to the Convention.
3.The award further encourages such criminal activity in the name of counter insurgency, and once again underscores the total impunity enjoyed by the security forces.
4. The Army’s actions reveal the feudal attitude of the State vis a vis Kashmir and its people. Even the extraordinary powers guaranteed to the security forces under AFSPA in conflict areas do not allow the security forces to commit such acts.
5.The claims of the Indian state that Kashmir is an inalienable part of India stand exposed as nothing more than a matter of territorial interest and national prestige, as the state does not uphold the civil rights of Kashmiris as Indian citizens.
6.The argument that the Gogoi’s actions were a response to the activities of the stone –pelters and commendable both as a proactive and defensive measure is unacceptable as it is based on the false assumption that the State and the people are equal. The State’s executive, legislative and judicial powers, its monopoly over violence and its Constitutional responsibility as the guarantor of fundamental freedoms enjoins greater accountability, rather than lesser.
Such absolute impunity to the security forces where all national, international laws cease to matter, and such actions lauded by public officials, represent a threat to the very nature of our democracy, bringing to the fore the increasingly totalitarian face of a state where its agents are above the law. The State must be called to account. Towards this end PUDR demands:
1.Criminal action against Major Gogoi
2.The removal of the Army Chief from his post for an unconstitutional acts.
3.Withdrawal of AFSPA.
Cijo Joy, Anushka Singh