Major Leetul Gogoi, an Army officer who took the controversial decision of using a Kashmir youth as a human shield in front of an Army vehicle, has received a reward from the Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat.
“Major Gogoi has been awarded Chief of Army Staff's commendation card for sustained efforts on counter insurgency operations,” said Army spokesperson Col Aman Anand.
The commendation was awarded “very recently,” said another officer, without giving out a specific date.
The Army instituted a Court of Inquiry on the incident following the hue and cry that the incident triggered. Sources said the inquiry found him not guilty as no one in the Army would be entitled for any awards pending any inquiry.
“While awarding the officer, all factors including notable performance of the officer and overall emerging indicators of the Court of Inquiry have been well considered. The Court of Inquiry is under finalisation,” said an officer.
In the past he received support from Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi and Punjab Chief Minister Amrinder Singh, who was one of the senior politicians to stand behind Major Gogoi consistently.
“I am happy to hear of possible bravery award for human shield officer Major Gogoi. Hope it is true. The officer deserves it,” tweeted Singh on Monday.
Major Gogoi was posted in the Army Service Corps in Srinagar when he took the decision that catapulted him in the eye of a major storm.
On the day of repolling for the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency bye-election on April 9, the local Army commander received an emergency message from the civil administration to rescue a team of 12 election staff, 9 ITBP soldiers and two Jammu and Kashmir policemen, who were trapped inside a polling booth. He entrusted Gogoi with the job.
The polling booth in Budgam area was targeted by several hundred stone-pelters including the ladies, who were hurtling stones from the roof-top. Instead of opening a fire, which could have aggravated the situation, the officer thought of using one of the stone pelters as a human shield.
He picked up Farooq Dar, a 36-year-old, who was tied before the lead vehicle of the convoy. Once everyone came out to the safety, he was handed over to the local authorities.
Dar, however, has a different story to narrate. He claims he was picked up when he was on way to his sister's house, where a bereavement had occurred. Dar also claimed he was moved around 10-12 villages before being let off.
A video of the incident went viral in the social media, sparking criticism. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehboba Mufti sought a report from the state police. As the police filed a First Information Report against the army, the army ordered its own internal inquiry.
Former Commanding Officer of the Northern Command Lt General HS Panag stated the image (of the human shield) would end up being the defining image of the Indian Army, just like the Napalm girl was for the Vietnam war.