Human shield: Army sets bad precedent

The image of a man tied to the bonnet of an army jeep and being taken through the streets in Badgam as a human shield against stone-pelters is a terrible comment on the conduct of army personnel in Jammu and Kashmir. The parade was accompanied by words in the public address system which said, “this will be the fate of stone-pelters.” This was done on the repolling day last week in Srinagar to make a safe passage for election officials. The polling was disrupted by stone-pelting and mob violence, and the human shield may have warded off some stones. But it has blackened the image of the Indian Army and again raised serious questions about its credentials as a rule-abiding force that conducts itself right and straight. It is shameful and reprehensible if the army stoops to the level of creating a human shield by taking a civilian hostage.

To tie up a man and to parade him through the streets is to insult him and to humiliate him. Even if he is guilty of something, legally parading him is not correct. To do that in a violent area is also to expose him to physical danger. It is a serious violation of his constitutional and human rights. Human shields are used by terrorist organisations, and it is a universally condemned and abhorrent practice. It is considered a war crime and those who practice it can be tried for it. The Indian Army is not fighting a war in Kashmir. It is there to deal with civil unrest and disturbance and it cannot treat the people as enemies whose rights do not matter. It cannot also devalue the life of innocent people and put them at risk. Ironically, the man used as the human shield had voted in the elections, but has vowed never to vote again.

An army that acts like a terrorist body loses its legitimacy. It has no right to act illegally and dishonourably even in the face of provocation or attacks by its people. The argument that the human shield was effective in keeping stone-pelters away is wrong and cynical. So is the view that taking a man hostage was better than shooting people. An earlier image of some CRPF personnel acting with self-restraint in the face of insults and provocation by a group of people has been lost in this bad image. The security personnel in Kashmir have been accused of many illegalities and atrocities in the past. This latest is one of a kind. The government has discredited itself by supporting it. Those who thought of and executed this idea should be punished and such abominations should not occur again.

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