by Umar Khurshid
SRINAGAR: Even as court-martial proceedings are going on against the Major Leetul Gogoi of the human shield fame, he is still not fading from the public discourse in the mainland India.
In a recent Pandal Pooja festival held in Gorwa area of Vadodara district in Gujarat, Dar’s Human Shield poster was displayed as that of a ‘Kashmiri Stone Pelter’. Alongside was Lord Ganesha in army uniform holding an AK-47. The function was a tribute to the army, particularly to Major Gogoi”, Indian Express reported.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has talked in detail in Telegraph about the Major and the tone was indirectly supportive.
The Pandal is a fabricated structure, either temporary or permanent, that is used in a religious function organised to venerate the Lord Ganesha during Ganesh Chaturthi or the goddess Durga during Durga Puja. The entire exercise is part of the elaborate Puja Pandal.
Reporting the Vadodra function, the Indian Express said a hoarding adjacent to the Pandal reads: “For the last few years, Kashmir has been conflict-ridden and every now and then, citizens of Kashmir pelt the armed forces with stone and many political parties in India call them ‘adrift’ and protect them. So, we the members of Om flat are against all such politicians and political parties. They even protect those political students who raise slogans like ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’ in JNU. We strongly condemn such politicians. India was, is and will remain one. Kashmir is an integral part of India.”
The report said that according to the organizing committee, their idea behind the concept was to show solidarity with the army fighting at the borders.
“We stand in solidarity with Major (Leetul) Gogoi and his move to tie up the stone-pelters,” Indian Express quoted Dilip Nepali, one of the organizing members, saying. “We have learned about him facing a court-martial but we do not condemn his move and instead we hail it and that is why we took up the concept,”
An embroidery artisan till a year ago, Farooq Dar was tied on an army jeep as a human shield on April 9, 2017, by a team led by Major Leetul Gogoi in Beerwa belt of Budgam. The video of the incident later made headlines across the world. But the incident of the human shield is being celebrated as an act of valour and patriotism.
Earlier, it was a T-shirt that was in news for printing the same photograph on it. Later a Bollywood film Baaghi-2 shot a starting sequence from this very incident.
Gogoi’s ‘human shield’ was an artisan who had cast the vote in the election that sent Dr Farooq Abdullah to the Lok Sabha. A fierce debate over the issue led police to register an FIR. But the Army honoured Gogoi for his efforts in the counter-insurgency operations.
More than a year later, Gagoi was caught with a girl with whom he wanted to spend a night in the hotel. It was on this basis that Gogoi was detached from 53-RR and is now facing court-martialal
But the support for Gogoi is swelling within and outside the establishment.
In an interview with Sankarsen Thakur, the Telegraph Roving editor, General Rawat has said Gogoi’s ‘spilt second’ decision “saved lives and probably a worse situation “.
After Gogoi was caught with the girl, General Rawat had announced severe punishment to the officer if found guilty. Here are the three questions that pertain to Gogoi in the Telegraph interview’
Q: But there are also soldiers like Major Leetul Gogoi who take human shields, and then get involved in what appears to be unsavoury behaviour. Why did you commend him?
A: Listen, I thought about it to myself. What would I have done in that situation? Would I have shot my way through and killed or maimed people? Or was there another way? Forget afterthought, we are all very wise in hindsight. He had to make a split-second decision. And he made it, he took the initiative and he took the least harmful way out of that situation. I commended him for that. For quick thinking, for trying to save lives, for trying not to vitiate the atmosphere even more.
Q: But what self-respecting army would take a human shield, General?
A: No, we do not normally do it (take human shields), I am not saying this is what we do or should do. I am only saying in that split-second he took a decision and it was probably the better decision because it saved lives and probably a worse situation.
Q: And what about the inquiry he now faces for inappropriate behaviour?
A: The inquiry is on. But let me tell you something. I too have operated on the ground. We do work with informants, especially in an insurgency situation. And often women are very good informants. You see, some of these young terrorists like to have girlfriends who they meet furtively when the situation allows. A lot of these girls are not sure they are being cheated or two-timed. They are uncertain. They can be nervous. They open up. And they have good information to reveal. That could be the case here. But even if that was the case, the way Major Gogoi was going about it was not correct. But let us see, the inquiry is on. And I told you there are no second chances for corruption or moral turpitude.