An award for Gogoi

When institutions of the state do not conduct themselves according to the law, they endanger legitimacy of the state itself

By: Editorial | Updated: May 25, 2017 10:11 am
Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi, Leetul Gogoi award, Kashmir human shield, Kashmir stone pelting, Kashmir violence, Kashmir protest, indian express editorial The army chief, General Bipin Rawat, said that whatever the outcome of of the inquiry, there is no reason for disciplinary action against Gogoi.

The army’s commendation of Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi, the officer who tied Farooq Ahmed Dar, a Kashmiri artisan, to an army jeep’s bonnet and paraded him, apparently using him as a human shield for his troops against stone-pelters, is a troubling move. For one, it pre-empted due process — the army’s own internal inquiry into the circumstances of the officer’s action. The army chief, General Bipin Rawat, said that whatever the outcome of of the inquiry, there is no reason for disciplinary action against Gogoi.

Only last week, India made a case for the importance of due process at the International Court of Justice in its legal battle to save Kulbhushan Jadhav, sentenced to death on charges of spying by a Pakistani military court. India also invoked the Vienna Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. There is no evidence that Dar was a stone-pelter.

In fact, by all accounts, he was among the pitifully small number of Kashmiris who defied the mood on the ground to vote in the Srinagar parliamentary by-election held on that day. Gogoi’s action was also a violation of the ICCPR that lays down that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Most of all, however, Gogoi’s action was a violation of the right to life and liberty enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The army is bound to uphold the Constitution. At all times, its actions must be aimed at protecting the citizens of the country. Dar is an Indian citizen.

Justifying torture or the degrading use of one civilian as something that helped to save hundreds of lives, including those of the troops under Gogoi’s command, raises more questions than it answers. Is it being suggested here that Gogoi’s only other option was to shoot into a crowd, to kill? When institutions of the state do not conduct themselves according to the law, they endanger the legitimacy of the state itself.

General Bipin Rawat has said Gogoi was given the award “to ensure the confidence level of the officer and others operating in a similar environment”. This should rightly raise concern about the message it has sent out to troops deployed in Kashmir and in other theatres in the country about the limits of acceptable conduct for the world’s third largest professional army. Just as importantly, it should raise concerns about the message it sends out to an already alienated people in the Valley.

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  1. A
    Ash
    May 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm
    There are some who support his actions.They rely on his version that Dar was an Instigator, and that the group was surrounded by a large crowd of stone pelters.The army was armed with guns,were in armoured vehicles and not on foot.With their firepower it is hard to believe that the army group was in danger of their lives. It is hard to be sure about facts and as an inquiry was underway it was inappropriate of the army chief to commend the major at this stage.I wonder if the govt pushed him to take this step.There are voices within the army who have reproached this action of the major.
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  2. A
    Ash
    May 26, 2017 at 2:33 pm
    It seems a section of the population,IR the paid trolls don't follow the articles reasoning, perhaps due to their limited education.Although education should not act as a barrier to understand that Kashmir is part of India,Dar is a citizen of India,and he is protected by the cons ution of India which the army is sworn to defend and follow.Which simply means the army may refuse illegal orders from politicians.The major has said he was surrounded by a crowd of 1200,and that Dar was instigating the stone pelters.My question is then how did the army manage to go upto the crowd to grab him,mindful of the fact that they were afraid for their lives from this large stone pelting crowd stigators usually shout from the back or midst of crowd? Too much has been made of this incident and the award of the medal has worsened it.It is another example of the inept hand by present govt.
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    Praveen Patavardhan
    May 25, 2017 at 4:36 pm
    Few weeks back, the tribals of Madhya Pradesh who do not align to any political party, pained after watching the stone pelters attacking the Army have requested that they be given a chance to handle the stone pelters by using gophan, their technique of stone throwing to support the army men. With awareness of this order increasing even among the less educated, the IE editorial - 25May 17 - An award for Gogoi, portrays the human rights, freedom of expression for the stone pelters also arguing the Army has no right to protect itself and is deplo only to get beaten. Ignorance towards atrocities committed by separatist forces is always at its helm and now the Army having to listen to no mistake it committed is horrendous for national security.
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  4. K
    K A Patavardhan
    May 25, 2017 at 4:35 pm
    It is unfortunate that the editorial is lopsided in its writing -'An award for Gogoi.' Is the army not facing the brunt of the stone pelters day in and out? However it is the same army who also parti tes in national interest to protect lives during heavy rains and floods, cloud burst and what not without discriminating separatists. When the stone pelter has his freedom of expression and he should be allowed to do so, Major Gogoi is not wrong in his act, and he deserves the commendation and more such stringent action is needed to control the separatist mob in future too. K A Patavardhan
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  5. P
    Prakopa Arya
    May 25, 2017 at 4:34 pm
    The editorial, tries to throw poor light on the commendation of Major Gogoi in Kashmir but seems has failed to understand the plight of the Major Gogoi or the Army in general. The stone pelters have been gaining a lot thru the support of the separatists and without earning anything for the country have only been involved in activities against India. What Major Gogoi has done this time should be a warning and the youth who are wasting their time should fall in line towards betterment of the state instead of resorting to unlawful methods. The issue of Kashmir is increasing not just by stan but also due to separatists who are to be controlled and Army is in the right direction. Prakopa Arya
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  6. M
    M.C.Joshi
    May 25, 2017 at 2:36 pm
    I am unable to restrain myself from expressing the shock and pain which I feel on the comments coming through, in spite of Major Gogoi’s clarification about the incident, like those in the editorial “An award for Gogoi” and the article “Not The Indian Army I Know” by Karan Thapar. The mob of stone-pelters had surrounded them and he had two choices, either to open fire on the mob or the other one he applied by his presence of mind. In the first case some stone-pelters may have been killed aggravating the situation and in turn major Gogoi and the poll party may have also been killed by the mob. Major Gogoi’s act of getting hold of the person who was instigating the stone-pelting mob and using him as human shield avoided bloodshed. The person was later released without any harm done to him. Ask hundred persons in the street, they all have great admiration for Major Gogoi and we, the idealists, are talking of legality and morality, not of the lives which were at stake.
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