India’s Army Court of Inquiry (COI) on Monday acquitted an army officer accused of tying a man to his jeep, using him as a human-shield while patrolling in India-held Kashmir on April 9, Indian media reported.
Earlier in April, a video had circulated on social media showing a young man, later discovered to be 26-year-old shawl maker Farooq Ahmad Dar, strapped to the front of an olive-green vehicle with a sign pinned to his chest declaring him to be a stone-pelter. The incident had once again raised concerns over the violation of human rights by Indian armed forces in held Kashmir, prodding the Indian army to investigate the incident, which reportedly occurred in Budgam district.
However, on Monday, an Indian army court acquitted Major Nitin Gogol, praising him for having the “presence of mind to avoid casualties or injuries” and “avoid” stone pelting on forces.
Gogol is serving in held-Kashmir with the Rashtriya Rifles branch of the Indian military.
‘Am I a toy or a human being?’
Dar, who was tied to the jeep by men in Gogol’s battalion, conservatively estimated he was paraded for at least 20-25 kilometres.
After they were done patrolling, Dar says he was taken to a Central Reserve Paramilitary Force camp in Hardapanzoo where he said he was “still tied up and not offered water”.
Later, Dar said he was taken on another ride, this time inside a jeep.
He recounted his story several times to journalists who had sought him out after the video was leaked on social media.
“Am I a toy or a human being?” he said, “The government should take action against” the army personnel.
Describing the effects of the beating, he said, “There are no bruises over the surface but I am hurt on the inside.”
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah had tweeted the video when it first emerged, exclaiming how a lack of action about the Kashmiri youth’s handling frustrated him.
Referring to a separate video showing an Indian security official being beaten up by by a group of enraged Kashmiris, “I understand the outrage the Central Reserve Police Force video generated. I’m also outraged that the video of the youth on the jeep won’t generate the same anger,” he said.