Many a commentator has drawn a parallel of Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi’s action of carrying a stone pelter on the bumper of a jeep, with torture of Mau Mau terrorists of Nairobi, while some others have equated this action with the massacre at My Lai by U S troops in Vietnam. This action by Major Gogoi has been equated with Jalanwalla Bagh tragedy.

Some others have quoted Vienna Convention on violation of human rights, where using humans as a shield is considered violation of this Convention and a war crime. Then there are the likes of Omar Abdullah, now out of power, who have gone overboard on this action and exaggerated the incident to the extent that the man on the bumper of a jeep was driven through a number of villages. Further, the action violated citizen’s fundamental right and was against Constitution’s spirit. Does someone who casts stones at security forces not forego, his right to be treated gently. To contend that Farooq Ahmed Dar had cast his vote in the morning, so it did not matter if he turned into a stone pelter in the afternoon, is simply absurd. .

There were a dozen policemen and election staff at the polling both, surrounded as they were by a few hundred strong bloodthirsty mob, when a desperate call was made to the army detachment for rescuing them. The policemen in the polling booth were armed with rifles and they could have shot their way out, killing dozen odd rioters. At another end , this military detachment could have used firearms, killing few and injuring many more and rescued those trapped in the polling booth.

Since the call had been made to Major Gogoi to rescue those trapped in that polling booth, he had two options. One, to use force to kill few and wound many to disperse the crowd and rescue those trapped, or think of some innovative method, whereby casualties could be avoided and yet those hopelessly trapped could be rescued.

Some of us who sit in secure environments, perhaps under air-conditioned comfort, cannot visualize the pressure, stress and the heat generated, when one is face to face with a bloodthirsty mob and called upon to take an instant decision.

Carrying a stone pelter on the bumper of a jeep has been dubbed as human shield, which it is claimed, is a serious violation of human rights and human dignity etc. The fact is that he shielded nothing and no one. That jeep itself and those following it were not shielded and lay open to stone pelters and those with petrol bombs.

What the Geneva Convention refers to is, using prisoners, civilians and women upfront to face enemy fire, while troops move behind the cover of those being placed up front. To compare carrying this stone pelter with human shield as envisaged by many a commentator, is giving free reign to wild imagination. It is the anti-national elements in the Valley who have often put women up front, when facing prospect of action by security forces.

This simple action of carrying a stone pelter in this manner, lowered the tension and became a source of amusement, mirth, laughter, putting down the stones and clapping of hands by the otherwise, murderous mob.

Many in this incident found an opportunity for army bashing. Some others have strongly criticized the army chief for commending the actions of this officer. While others have drawn a parallel with fall of Roman Empire and quote from Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, that only the, ‘dead smile.’ However in this case the mob, not just smiled but laughed.

What the Indian Army is facing in J and K, more so in the Valley, is the cumulative failure of the Indian state to resolve the issues and poor, indifferent, thoroughly corrupt and inefficient, successive governments in the state. To this one can add the nurturing of dishonest and anti-national elements : providing them security and funds by Indian government, besides those passed on to them by the Pak ISI.

The prevailing conditions in the valley and the onerous tasks of restoring peace, handed down to the army, requires patience, innovation and out of the box solutions, backed by a political will and sagacity. Uncalled for criticism of major Gogoi’s action further exacerbate the anti-India bias and feeds the call for, ‘Azadi.’

(The views expressed in this article are personal to the writer)

(Cover Photograph BASIT ZARGAR: Curfew in Srinagar)