Major Nitin Gogoi, who is facing a Court of Inquiry (CoI) for tying up a Kashmiri man to a jeep's bonnet purportedly as a 'human shied' against stone pelters in the Valley, has been awarded commendation card by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat for 'sustained efforts' on counter-insurgency operations.
A video, showing the man tied to an army vehicle during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election on April 9, had triggered a public outcry, prompting the Army to institute a probe.
The Army Chief's 'Commendation Card' for Major Gogoi is seen as an indication that he is unlikely to be implicated for the incident by a Court of Inquiry which the Army maintains is still going on.
"Major Gogoi has been awarded Chief of Army Staff's Commendation Card for sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations," Army spokesperson Col Aman Anand said.
Sources said Major Gogoi was given the award during Gen Rawat's visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week.
The Army Chief's 'Commendation Card' is considered a prestigious award and is given for distinguished services and devotion to duties.
Earlier, the Army had denied reports that the CoI had given a clean chit to the major and said a final conclusion was still to be reached.
The reports had claimed that a court of Inquiry had exonerated the officer.
Media reports had quoted army sources saying that Major Nitin Gogol had been praised by the Court of Inquiry for "presence of mind" by tying a youth to a moving jeep to "avoid" stone pelting on forces.
The Court of Inquiry, chaired by a Colonel-level officer, is tasked to look into the circumstance that prompted Major Gogoi to tie the Kashmiri youth to the jeep's bonnet as a "human shield". The Times of India had quoted an officer as saying that the CoI is a fact-finding process and not an indictment.
The 'human shield' incident
A major row had erupted after a video of a Kashmiri man tied to the front of an Army jeep went viral last month when former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah shared it on twitter.
It is said that the Army had taken this step during an operation to rescue security personnel and government officials on election duty trapped by a stone-pelters mob on April 9 in Budgam district when Srinagar Lok Sabha bypolls were held.
The man was identified as one Farooq Dar, a resident of Sitaharaan village in Khag tehsil of Budgam district in central Kashmir, and was apparently picked up when he was on way to his sister's house, where a bereavement had occurred, after casting his vote.
He alleged he was picked up by an army contingent that wanted to enter Beerwah village with the polling staff and tied with ropes to the front of the vehicle, officials said.
The video showed the thickset man sporting a beard strapped to the bonnet while seated on the stepney affixed to the bumper of the jeep. Dar claimed he was moved around 10-12 villages at the head of the convoy, which included vehicles with security personnel and polling staff, before being let off.
An FIR was registered at the Beerwa police station of Budgam district under sections 342/149/506 and 367 of the Ranbir Penal Code.
The FIR was registered against the Army’s 53 Rashtriya Rifles unit on April 13.