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Indian Army rewarding Major Gogoi for using civilian as human shield 'undermines stature' of military, says Human Rights Watch

New York: A human rights organisation has criticised the Indian Army for awarding a commendation to one of its officers who used a civilian as a human shield in Kashmir, saying support for such "lawless action" will lead to future lawlessness by security forces and protesters.

"The Indian Army's rewarding of an officer for actions that included serious human rights violations undermines accountability and the stature of the military," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Wednesday.

File photo of the Kashmiri man who was tied to an army jeep in Kashmir during the bypolls to keep the stone-pelters away. Image courtesy: Suhail Bhat

File photo of the Kashmiri man who was tied to an army jeep in Kashmir during the bypolls to keep the stone-pelters away. Image courtesy: Suhail Bhat

It was referring to Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi being commended for evacuating security personnel and election staff who were threatened by a mob in Jammu and Kashmir, in which he used a bystander unlawfully as a "human shield." The Indian Army has defended Gogoi's action.

In a recent interview to PTI, Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat, defending the episode, said the Army was facing a "dirty war" in Kashmir which has to be fought through "innovative" ways. Rawat had said the main objective of awarding Major Gogoi, when a court of inquiry was finalising its probe into the incident, was to boost the morale of young officers of the force who are operating in a very difficult environment in the militancy-infested state.

"This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way. The rules of engagements are there when the adversary comes face-to-face and fights with you. It is a dirty war... That is where innovation comes in. You fight a dirty war with innovations," Rawat said, in what were the general's most comprehensive comments yet to the media on the issue.

HRW's South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly, however, said, "Soldiers have a difficult task in Kashmir and should be rewarded for saving lives, but not by deliberately placing others at risk and violating their rights."

"Support by senior army and government officials for a lawless action merely fans the flames of future lawlessness by security forces and protesters," Ganguly said. "Public praise by senior officials for an act of outrageous cruelty should put to rest any belief that the government is serious about holding security force personnel to account for serious abuses."

The army chief's Commendation medal to Gogoi, who had tied a man to an army jeep and used him as a human shield from stone throwers in April was criticised by human rights activists, Kashmiri groups and by a few retired army generals. A video of the incident had triggered a row with many condemning it.

Updated Date: Jun 01, 2017 13:09 PM

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