Felicitated for Human Rights Violation, Major Gogoi Indicted For 'Fraternising With a Local'
SRINAGAR: After earning laurels for tying a young Kashmiri to the front of a jeep, which saw Major Leetul Gogoi being lauded by his seniors and the political establishment, the Army officer now faces a court martial after a row at a Srinagar hotel involving a Kashmiri woman.
The Army court of enquiry has held Major Gogoi guilty of "fraternising with a local in spite of instructions to the contrary and being away from the place of duty while in operational area."
Major Gogoi was detained in May after checking into a hotel room that had been booked online. He got into a fight with the hotel staff when the woman came to meet him, but was stopped from going to his room as she was a local resident.
The Army officer insisted that he had come for a “source” meeting.
The incident occurred after Major Gogoi became a hero of the rightwing establishment for seeking to contain violence by using a local Kashmiri youth as a “human shield” during by-elections. The chilling act, whose photograph also created a storm of protest, was backed by the Army, with veterans and serving officers alike supporting the move, termed a severe violation of human rights by rights groups.
In an environment where divisiveness is fast becoming the order of the day Gogoi was treated like a hero. Sources said his visit to the hotel arose from an aura of invincibility, where he crossed all rules to check himself into a civilian hotel in the state capital and arrange the meeting.
The woman had come to the hotel with a male escort but was stopped by hotel staff.
Gogoi was indicted by a court of enquiry earlier this month, and disciplinary action is being taken against him. The incident came to light only because of the hotel staff who refused to agree to it despite threats and the fight, and the Jammu and Kashmir police which insisted on taking action. The Army's infallibility was the shield being used by the major for this particular assignment, but it did not work in his favour.
It was covered widely in the media, and the Army was left with no choice but to institute an enquiry and initiate disciplinary action against an officer who had thought little of tying a civilian to the front of his jeep and driving with him through the protestors. He had later defended this reprehensible action, maintaining that it was done in the line of duty. Appearing before the media as a declared hero of the establishment the major had claimed, “We went to a polling booth to check the security situation and then some people began pelting stones at us. Then the stone pelters started throwing petrol bombs at us. I took that step just to save the local people.”
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah along with others had at the time pointed to the violation of the Geneva Convention.
Despite criticism by opposition parties, Major Gogoi was awarded with the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation for his “distinguished service” in counterinsurgency operations, thereby giving a fillip to such rights violations. The award was given to the major personally by the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat during a visit to Jammu and Kashmir last May.