In a major embarrassment to the Indian Army in Kashmir, one of its officers, Major Leetul Gogoi, who hogged headlines last year for using a Kashmiri man as human shield was caught on Wednesday with a "minor" girl from a Srinagar hotel. The army officer was to spend a night with a minor girl in the hotel before rejoining duty at 53 Rashtriya Rifles (Punjab Regiment) base at Beerwah in central Kashmir’s Budgam district.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police said an army officer, a minor and a driver were apprehended after they got a call from Hotel Grand Mamta in Dalgate area of Srinagar. The eyewitnesses said that the major was dragged by the locals after the scandal surfaced before taken under police custody.
Manzoor Ahmad, the owner of Hotel Grand Mamta told Firstpost that the army major had booked a room in the hotel using an online service, booking.com, and appeared in the hotel in the morning from Srinagar airport.
"(Leetua) Gogoi wrote two people on the registration form when the front desk asked him to produce two Aadhaar cards, one of them turned to be a local Kashmiri girl, who was a minor," Ahmad told Firstpost. "The front desk told him they can’t give room to a local. He left and reached the person in the car where the girl was sitting and told him that they are not giving the room. The person, a local, came out and started fighting with the front desk and we asked the police to come," the owner said.
The booking had been done in the name of Leetul Gogoi from Assam. The checkout was to happen on Thursday, 24 May.
The hotel management said that the guest was travelling for business and may be using a business credit card. The altercation broke out after the hotel management sought the identity proof of the girl and her driver visiting the major in the hotel. He was handed over to the police which handed him over to his unit after questioning.
"Police station Khanyar received a call from Hotel Grand Mamta that an altercation has taken place at the hotel," a police officer said.
"A police party was deputed to the hotel and it surfaced that a one woman (name withheld) and person namely Sameer Ahmed of Budgam had come with the major. The "woman" is a 16-year-old girl," the police said.
A police statement later said, "The hotel reception did not allow them to meet the person. Meanwhile, police reached the spot and got all the persons to the police station. Subsequently, it was learnt that the woman had come to meet an army officer. The identity and particulars of the army officer have been collected by the police. The official was handed over to (his) unit after recording their statements. The statement of the woman is also being recorded."
Inspector General of Police SP Pani has ordered a probe into the incident which will be conducted by a SIT headed by SP(North) Srinagar.
After the incident made it to the internet, many Kashmiri netizens reacted fiercely, saying, the major finally faced his karma.
"The weaver he used as human shield is now suffering from a disturbed mindset," said Ahsan Untoo, a rights activist fighting Farooq Dar, the Kashmiri human shield’s case. "What goes around, comes around. The shameful incident has now unmasked the real face of the major."
While many argue that it was "consensual" act, but the age of the girl makes it a clear case of felony.
"The identity and particulars of the army officer have been collected by the police as well," the police said.
It is not clear what was the urgency for the major to go almost alone risking his own life when the whole of Kashmir did not approve of what he did to Dar by putting him on the bonnet of the jeep.
Interestingly, after using Kashmiri as a human shield in poll-bound Budgam district early last year, Major Gogoi received the Commendation Card from Army Chief General Bipin Rawat.
Considered a prestigious award, it’s given for distinguished services and devotion to duty. The award of the chief of army staff commendation card, which is just a notch below gallantry medals, was given to Gogoi in a deliberate statement of intent by the army about their hard-nosed policy in dealing with the situation in the Valley.
As the incident is fast becoming a major controversy in Kashmir, the army is yet to come clear on the incident. When reached for his comments on the incident, Srinagar-based army PRO didn’t respond to repeated calls.
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Updated Date: May 25, 2018 16:10:00 IST