Srinagar, May 24: Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi, the Indian Army officer who used a Kashmiri man as human shield on his jeep to thwart a stone-pelting mob, on Tuesday said he did that to “save more lives”.
“I did this (tie Farooq Dar on the bonnet of my jeep) to save more lives of the local people,” the 53 Rashtriya Rifles Major told reporters, a day after he was given the Army Chief’s Commendation Card for “sustained efforts” in counter insurgency operations.
“If I had ordered firing then more casualties would have been there,” Gogoi said, recalling the events of April 9 during the by-election in Srinagar.
A video of Dar tied to an army jeep as human shield had gone viral on social media, and was widely condemned.
Explaining the events of the polling day, Gogoi said, “I received a call from an ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) personnel that a crowd of 400-500 people had gathered outside the polling booth in Bandipora and were pelting stones and hurting the polling staff.”
“When we reached there in 30 minutes, me and my boys brought the situation under control, but then around 10.30 a.m. I again received a distress call that around 1,200 people were pelting stones and also hurling petrol bombs in Utligam,” he said.
“Without wasting time, we moved to Utligam which was 1.5 km from there,” the Rashtriya Rifles officer said, adding that after reaching there they were unable to move out of their vehicles.
Gogoi said he made repeated requests to the crowd, including women and children, to stop stone pelting but they didn’t stop.
“Then I noticed this man (Farooq Dar) just 30 meters away from my vehicle, he was the ring leader, and I asked my QRT (Quick Reaction Team) boys to get hold of him. After noticing my boys coming towards him he started running towards the crowd and took the bike to flee the spot,” he said.
Gogoi said that Dar was a resident of Kashmir’s Budgam district.
He said army personnel managed to capture Dar and took him inside the polling station.
“But soon there was an announcement made from a mosque after which more people gathered outside the polling station and they even hurled petrol bombs at us,” he said.
“When we were unable to move out, I announced from my mega-mic to tie the captured man on the bonnet, after which the stone pelting stopped for sometime and we got time to come out and get into our vehicles,” he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir police, which has lodged an FIR against Gogoi, said that investigations will continue.