The Army’s decision to present an award to a soldier who tied a Kashmiri man to a moving military jeep as a “human shield” in Jammu and Kashmir last month “gives the impression that it condones human rights abuses,” Amnesty International India said today.
“Rewarding an officer who is under investigation for a human rights violation suggests that the Army seems to be willing to not just overlook, but actually valorise an act of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to torture,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director at Amnesty International India.
“This decision sends the disturbing message to security force personnel and people in Jammu and Kashmir that the human rights of Kashmiris can be casually ignored without fear of punishment. Authorities should instead be trying to ensure that those responsible, including those with command responsibility, are brought to justice in a civilian court.”
According to media reports, the soldier, an Army Major, has been awarded the chief of army staff’s commendation card for “sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”.
The officer is suspected of having ordered 24-year-old Farooq Ahmad Dhar to be tied to a jeep, had a sign reading “I am a stone pelter” pasted to his chest, and driven around for over five hours on 9 April in Budgam district, Jammu and Kashmir.
Some Army officials have claimed that Farooq Dar was used as a ‘human shield’ to deter people from throwing stones at their convoy.
However in a video of the incident uploaded online on 14 April, a voice over a loudspeaker can be heard saying, “This will be the fate of people who throw stones.”
According to media reports, an army spokesperson on 22 May said that the commendation was given to the Major for “sustained efforts”, but refused to confirm whether it was linked to the 9 April incident.
The Indian Army has ordered a military investigation into the incident. However it is unclear if the investigation has been completed. The state police is also conducting a criminal investigation into the incident.