Kashmir human shield: No clean chit to army major, but Farooq Ahmad Dar has lost faith in the system

Farooq Ahmad Dar, the shawl-weaver, who was tied to the front bumper of a military jeep by an army major in the Beerwah area of Budgam in central Kashmir, said on Monday he expected little from any institution, including the State Human Rights Commission where he has filed a complain against the army, for his ordeal on the day the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency went to the polls on 9 April.

On Monday, it was reported that Major Nitin Gogoi from the 53-Rashtriya Rifles was given a clean chit after an internal inquiry was constituted in the case. The army had convened a court of inquiry on 15 April, two days after the police registered an FIR in the case.

Dar, 27, a resident of Chill-Brass in the Budgam district had voted under serial number 612 on the electoral list on 9 April during the Srinagar bypolls amid violence that left eight people killed.

According to Dar, he had left home along with his cousin, after casting his vote, to attend the funeral procession for one of his relatives in Gaumpora village, a few kilometers from his village. When the duo reached Utilgam, a village near Gaumpora, the army stopped them and tied him to the front bumper of the jeep as it patrolled villages, apparently serving as a human shield against stone-throwing crowds.

 Kashmir human shield: No clean chit to army major, but Farooq Ahmad Dar has lost faith in the system

Farooq Ahmad Dar tied to the front of a military jeep on 9 April. Firstpost/Suhail Bhat

"Everyone on TV was saying I was pelting stones and so I deserved it. But the truth is, I have proof that I voted and then left my village to attend the funeral of my relative. How can I expect justice from anyone?" Dar asked.

"Since that day I have only made one vow that I will never vote in my life come what may," Dar told Firstpost on the phone from his village, which is surrounded on three sides by mighty mountains and connected with the main district by a cement bridge.

However, Colonel Rajesh Kalia, the army spokesperson in Srinagar, told Firstpost that the court of inquiry concerned with the incident wherein a civilian was tied to an army jeep is still incomplete.

"Reports in some sections of the media of the army major being given a clean chit are speculative," said Kalia.

Dar’s case of being used a human shield had drawn condemnation from people across the ideological lines in the Valley. Although this was not the first time the army had used human shields, the pictures and videos of Dar’s ordeal had created public outrage.

But Dar says he is of firm belief that no one will be persecuted or held guilty for his ordeal, but since that day he says he only feels guilty about one thing: Having gone out and voted.

"When they can’t punish an officer for doing wrong with someone who risked his life and voted, and then peddle lies against the same man, how do you think they are going to punish an officer for committing a crime?" Dar asked.

Dar had undergone a medical test and is being treated at the SKIMS Hospital in Srinagar for a serious psychological ailment after the incident.

The State Human Rights Commission is also investigating the case after a human rights activist Mohammad Ahsan Untoo filed a complaint against the army for using Dar as a human shield.

The Budgam district authorities has earlier said that there was no electoral staff deployed at that time of the day, when Dar was tied to the jeep.

The Opposition National Conference on Monday expressed disappointment over the alleged clean chit provided by the army to its Officer. National Conference state spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu said it was tragic that the army, rather than initiating swift and strict disciplinary action against the erring major, has ended up commending him and condoning his act of tying a civilian to an army jeep.

"The verdict of the military investigation goes against not only the Military Code and the very premise of the Geneva Convention but also violates the Fundamental Rights provided by the Constitution of India to all its citizens," he said.

Updated Date: May 16, 2017 07:48:35 IST