The Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission has directed the state government to provide Rs 10 lakh as "compensation" to Farooq Ahmed Dar, the Kashmiri man who was picked up by an Army major and used as a human shield by security forces earlier this year, ANI reported today.
Dar, an embroidery artisan, was tied to a jeep while security forces attempted to escape from a stone pelting mob during Srinagar Parliamentary bypoll on April 9. Major Leetul Gogoi, who took the decision to tie the civilian to the Army jeep, said Dar was himself a part of a stone pelting mob that attacked a poll party.
What J&K human rights commission has said
The Jammu and Kashmir human rights commission today directed the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to Farooq Ahmad Dar. The compensation awarded to Dar was for the "humiliation, physical and psychiatric torture, stress, wrongful restraint and confinement" that he underwent when he was tied to the bonnet of an Army vehicle to ward off stone pelters, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) observed in its judgement.
"I have no doubt in my mind that Farooq Ahmad was subjected to torture and humiliation, besides (being) wrongly confined," the judgement issued by SHRC chairperson Justice (retired) Bilal Nazki said.
He observed that the action led to trauma, resulting in psychiatric stress "which may remain with him for the rest of his life".
"For the humiliation, physical and psychiatric torture, stress, wrongful restraint and confinement, the commission thinks it appropriate to direct the state government to pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the victim," the SHRC said.
The commission directed the J&K government to comply with the direction within six weeks.
The judgement is recommendatory in nature and would need the approval of the state government for implementation. "The chief secretary of the state shall file a compliance report before the commission within the same period," the ruling read.
Justice (retd) Nazki said the police in its report had said Dar was tied to the Army vehicle bonnet and used as a human shield, but observed that the commission was "handicapped" by the fact that it could not refer to the conduct of the Army because of the limited applicability of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.
"There cannot be any debate as to whether the treatment given to Dar was a violation of human rights or not. There are laws in this country, and international laws, which prohibit such a treatment even to a convict. Such treatment to a human being cannot be accepted by a civilised society," he said.
The commission, however, was "handicapped" by the fact that it could not go into the conduct of the Army who are allegedly responsible for the incident according to Dar as well as the state police, he said.
The SHRC chairperson said that in view of the police report, Dar has been subjected to human rights violations and, therefore, the state government could not escape from the responsibility.
"This commission chose not to issue any notice to the central government or the armed forces, but the fact remains that the protection of life and liberty of the people is basic responsibility of the state government," the judgement said.
Even if the state government sought the assistance of central forces to deal with the law and order situation, the responsibility of the state government to protect its citizens and their rights "cannot be diluted or abdicated", Justice (retd) Nazki observed.
He, however, said that since the SHRC was not able to go into question of the Army's responsibility, "the commission clarifies that any observation made in this order should not be taken as an expression of any opinion regarding the alleged involvement of officers of the Indian Army."
The judgement came on an application moved by Ahsan Antoo, chairman, International Forum for Justice and Protection of Human Rights.
What Dar alleged
A video of Dar tied to the bonnet of the jeep had gone viral earlier this year, 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. However, Major Gogoi was awarded by Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat for his 'sustained efforts' in counter- insurgency operations. The Army Chief's 'Commendation Card' for Major Leetul Gogoi in May came even as a Court of Inquiry into the incident was going on.
Dar alleged that he 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.
What Major Gogoi said
Major Gogoi also appeared before the media to say that his action of tying a man to a jeep as a shield against stone-pelting was intended to save the lives of many people. He said about 1200 stone-pelters had surrounded a small group of security personnel at a polling booth in Utligam village of Budgam district on 9 April and if he had ordered firing, there could have been at least 12 casualties.
He said the idea of tying the man to the jeep had struck him suddenly as a means to evacuate the polling staff and the paramilitary personnel, besides avoiding any casualties. He said after Dar was tied to the jeep, the stone-pelting stopped for some time, providing a window to them to leave that area safely.
Gen Rawat also defended the Major
Rawat said the main objective of awarding Gogoi was to boost the morale of young officers of the force who are operating in a very difficult environment in the militancy- infested state.
(With PTI inputs)