Is dragging a person for 28 km bravery, asks J&K man tied to Army jeep

Srinagar: Farooq Ahmed Dar has a question. Is dragging a person for nearly 28 kilometres an act of bravery, he asks.

The poser came after the embroidery artisan heard that an army Major, on whose direction he was tied to a jeep as a “human shield” against stone pelters in Kashmir, had been awarded a commendation certificate.

Dar said he was yet to be called by the police or the Army — which has instituted a court of inquiry into the incident of April 9 — for his side of the story.

“It is complete eyewash,” he said about the inquiry.

“They were never serious. I am a small person and why should anyone care,” Dar said.

Dar was picked up by the Major after he had gone to vote in the Srinagar Parliamentary constituency election, defying calls from militant groups to boycott the bypoll.

He was on his way back after casting his vote when he came across Major Leetul Gogoi, who is said to have tied him to the jeep’s bonnet as a shield against the stone pelters who had allegedly surrounded a group of armed personnel.

A video of Dar tied to the bonnet of the jeep went viral, triggering a public outcry. Some former general also said the move went against the “ethos” of the Indian Army.

The outrage prompted the Army to institute a probe into the incident.

The Jammu and Kashmir police also registered a case. “It has been over a month since then and I am yet to hear from the local police. Even my statement has not been registered,” Dar told PTI from his home in Chill in Budgam district.

The newly appointed Inspector General of Police (Kashmir range), Munir Khan, had said earlier in Sopore that the police would carry out an investigation into the matter and that the FIR had not been quashed, as many feared.

“An FIR means the beginning of an investigation. So once an FIR is lodged, the investigation begins. Whatever comes out in the investigation is a separate matter, but the investigation will take place and it will be seen what is right and what is wrong,” Khan said while replying to questions about the probe in the matter.

The incident came up again when Major Gogoi was honoured yesterday with the Army Chief’s commendation card for ‘his sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations’.

“I wonder whether tying a person to a jeep are his efforts in counter-insurgency operations,” Dar said, regretting having stepped out of his home to vote.

“I voted and was apparently penalised for this,” he said.

His life, he said, had changed after this incident. “People keep looking at me,” the 27-year-old man who earns his living by embroidering shawls said.

He said he had received a call after April 13 when the police registered a case.

“I was told that my statement had to be recorded but that has not happened so far. Even if the Army is conducting its own inquiry, my statement is needed for I am the victim,” he said.

Dar believed the state and central governments were trying “bury the truth” in the files.

The state police, which came into action after the video went viral on social networking sites, registered a case of abduction with an intent to cause grievous hurt, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.

“Information was received by the Beerwah Police station through reliable sources on April 9, 2017 that on the polling day of Parliament elections a news item was being telecast that a person identified as Farooq Ahmed Dar had been illegally confined by army personnel,” the FIR said.

It said he had been tied with a rope to an army vehicle at Ghondipora and turned into a human shield.

“On this information, the case has been registered and investigation taken up,” the FIR filed in Urdu said.