Major Gogoi lying to save himself, says Budgam man who was used as human shield

Srinagar

A day after Major Leetul Gogoi shared his side of the story on the controversy over allegedly tying a Kashmiri youth to an army jeep to deter stone-pelters, Farooq Dar (the man who was tied), on Wednesday, claimed that Gogoi had lied about him being a ringleader of a stone-pelting gang, reported Hindustan Times.

“The army major is lying to save himself,” Hindustan Times quoted Dar, who also added that had he been the ringleader of stone-pelters, he would not have cast his vote. Dar also reiterated his resolve to never vote again. “I won’t vote again after what they did to me. I will boycott voting,” the report quoted Dar as saying.

While interacting with the media on Tuesday, Gogoi had defended his action on April 9 while adding that Dar was tied to the jeep as he could have been the ringleader of many stone-pelters.

The army officer spoke over the incident when fresh controversy erupted after Gogoi was honoured on Monday with the Army Chief’s commendation card for “his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations”.

Gogoi said that about 1,200 stone-pelters had surrounded a small group of security personnel at a polling booth in Utligam village of Budgam district on April 9 and if he had ordered firing, there could have been at-least 12 casualties.

“The mob, which included women and children, was threatening to set ablaze the polling booth,” he said.

Gogoi said that he (and five other army personnel) had gone to that polling booth after a “distress call” about a small group of ITBP personnel and few members of the polling staff being surrounded by a big crowd of about 1200 stone-pelters.

He said that when he reached the spot, the crowd had started pelting stones. He said that despite repeated requests on his megaphone, the crowd, comprising several women and children refused to budge. As the stone-pelting increased, Gogoi ordered his men to take hold of Dar, the man who seemed to be instigating the attacks.

“This thing I have done only to save the local people (sic). Had I fired, there would have been more than 12 casualties… With this idea, I have saved many peoples’ lives,” Gogoi told reporters at the Beerwah camp in Budgam district.

Talking about Dar, Gogoi had said, “He tried to flee on a bike but somehow, despite intense stone-pelting and getting hurt, we caught hold of him.”

He said after catching Dar, the army personnel moved towards the polling station with the help of mine-protected vehicle.

“Once we got inside, I rescued four civil polling staff, seven ITBP personnel and one Jammu and Kashmir Police constable,” he had said.

Gogoi had said as they got a “fraction of moment (sic) to get out” and that they used the opportunity to “save at least 12 lives”.

“The crowd threw one petrol bomb at us and we had to face many roadblocks,” Gogoi said.

The officer said that while they were leaving the polling station, their mine-protected vehicle got stuck in the mud. “My team and I ensured smooth polls,” Gogoi said.

Dar, on the other hand, dismissed the probe into the case as a farce. Dar said he was yet to be called by the police or the army — which has instituted a court of inquiry into the incident of April 9— for his side of the story.

“It is a complete eyewash,” he said about the inquiry. “They were never serious. I am a small person and why should anyone care,” Dar said.

“It has been over a month since then and I am yet to hear from the local police. Even my statement has not been registered,” Dar was quoted by a news gathering agency.

The 27-year-old embroidary worker also reacted to the honour recieved by Gogoi. “I wonder whether tying a person to a jeep are his efforts in counter-insurgency operations,” Dar said, regretting having stepped out of his home to vote. “I was told that my statement had to be recorded but that has not happened so far. Even if the army is conducting its own inquiry, my statement is needed for I am the victim,” he said. Dar believes the state and central governments are trying “bury the truth” in the files.

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