Monday, 8 August, 2022
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Not too late: Why Indian Army must bring closure to Major Leetul Gogoi’s ‘human shield’ case

Indian Army may have punished Major Gogoi for indiscipline, but it’s the ‘human shield’ case that it needs to probe before it faces a PIL.

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In less than a year, Major Leetul Gogoi of the ‘human shield’ fame has gone from being a ‘national hero’ to an officer facing a loss of six months of seniority in the Indian Army for violating ‘military discipline’.

The punishment to Gogoi for “fraternising” with a local girl and “being away from place of duty while in an operational area” may have closed last year’s episode. But, the Indian Army still needs to bring a much-needed closure to his celebrated act from 2017 of tying a man to the jeep in Kashmir.

On 9 April that year, by using Farooq Ahmed Dar as a “human shield” in the alleged rescue of election commission officials held hostage by a “blood thirsty” mob of 700-900 people, Major Gogoi had violated Indian Army’s ethos, standard operating procedures, rules of engagement, Chief of Army Staff (COAS)’s Commandments, Supreme Court guidelines for application of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), Article 21 of the Constitution and Sections 63 and 69 of the Army Act read in conjunction with the Indian Penal Code.

It is not too late for the Indian Army to reopen the “human shield” case by holding a fresh court of inquiry and take necessary follow-up action depending upon the investigation.

Also read: How should the Indian army ethos handle Major Gogoi’s case?

The reopening of the case is important because under both civilian and military laws, there is no scope for making exceptions to “save casualties in a unique situation” in order to justify a grave offence. Only if proven by evidence, “actions in good faith” and “circumstances” are given due consideration to decide the severity of punishment. Nearly two years later, not an iota of evidence has surfaced to uphold the version of the officer.

At the time, however, and even before the military court of inquiry was finalised, Army chief General Bipin Rawat, cheered by the emotional nationalists, had rewarded Major Gogoi with a Commendation Card. Contrary to rules and regulation, Gogoi was allowed to interact freely with the media and made into a ‘national hero’. What happened a year later at Hotel Grand Mamta in Srinagar was merely the undoing of a ‘default’ hero who thought he was a law unto himself.

On 23 May 2018, Major Gogoi had posed as a businessman from Assam while checking into the hotel with an 18-year-old Kashmiri girl. Citing their rules, the hotel staff had refused entry to the girl, which led to an altercation with Major Gogoi who was joined in by his driver, Sepoy Sameer Mala. Gogoi, his driver and the girl were detained by officers at the Khanyar police station for questioning. The girl had later deposed before the magistrate that she had willingly gone out with Major Gogoi — her “Facebook friend”.

Also read: Why an Indian Army Major can’t just meet a woman at a hotel anywhere

Now nearly a year later, the ‘national hero’ has been found guilty by the Army for an act that is in ‘violation of good order and military discipline’.

The punishment that is likely to come Major Gogoi’s way is nowhere near what was promised by the Chief of Army Staff two days after the officer was caught : “…Agar Major Gogoi ne koi galat karwahi kari hai, toh main aapko yaqeen ke sath keh sakta hoon, ki jaldi se jaldi usko saza di jayegi, aur saza aisi doonga main, ki woh ek udharan ban kar reh jayega. (If Major Gogoi has done anything wrong, then I assure you that he will be punished and I will give such a punishment that it will become an example.)”

On the face of it, for what it amounts to, this seems to be the logical conclusion to a case where an Army officer was in violation of rules, regulations and law of the Indian Army.

However, the other episode — the ‘human shield’ case — still needs closure. The Indian Army must act fast before someone files a public interest litigation and the Supreme Court forces it to do so, as has happened in cases of human rights violations in Manipur.

Also read: What happened to the Kashmiri woman who went with Major Gogoi to a Srinagar hotel

In all fairness, I must compliment the Army for making an in-house course correction by issuing unambiguous orders to prevent unlawful “out of the box tactics” becoming the norm. I must also compliment all ranks for not emulating the rogue hero. But let there be no doubt that unless the “human shield” incident is properly investigated and legally closed, it will remain an indelible blot on the Indian Army’s reputation.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal.

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  1. What you write or advice here, does not count as difference of opinion. He is what we, the country needs, and certainly he is not a blot, not sure about you though.. Just because you have served nation, does not make your words gospel. You are no one to decide on who is a blot based on your narrow perception of so-called right and wrong.

  2. Panag has been a pain in the wrong place for many a people in the Army and continues to do so even after his retirement. Please Ignore him for his grey head

  3. What requires to be investigated is the underlying motive for Gen.Panag’s outburst. The old man is now devising new strategies for modern warfare !
    Let the active men in the field decide the way a life threatening situation be resolved and not those in rocking chairs in the comfort of their protected environ.

  4. I appreciate Gen Panag’s honesty. Dar was not a stone pelter as the grapevine media says to justify the wrong action by the Army. He was confirmed to be one of the very few voters and was returning after casting his vote. It is an irony that the officer Gogoi was rewarded for the public humiliation of an innocent local citizen but punished for befriending with a local person. I didn’t know that indian Army still follows the colonial traditions

  5. All those criticizing the army for the human shield case, can they give any other alternative of what Major Gogoi did? He had only a few minutes to think how to save the govt personals trapped and also to not kill a single person in the wild mob.

    • If Gogoi did not do that, the polling officials would have been lynched by the crowd. Remember that the polling was only 5%. Gogoi did a wonderful thing, and that was the only maneuver to reduce casualty. If he tried to go without a human shield he would not have reached the polling station at the right time, because stone pelting ;would have slowed down Gigoi’s party.

  6. This retired general has never faced such a situation on ground.These generals Climb the ladder with ground SOLDIERING of officers like Maj Gogoi and when some acts of ground SOLDIERING are not well taken by ill informed political bosses,these Generals take a U turn and take stupid decisions.

  7. What a feat! The Print has been able to enrol a disgruntled and cribbing gen to brow beat services with negative tirade as usual. Does not The Print know that in Islam stoning is recommended to kill enemy. So if stone pelters consider army personnel enemy so what is option left for army to act? Gen has failed to suggest any even during his stay at Northern Condom. In any case all these civ are armed with deadly stones. Once any one is armed he can not claim any human rights. Men in uñiform performing ardent task of defending national interest do also carry human right. There is no dilution or break of ethos by Man Gogoi against enemy like action by stone pelters to save EC personnel and to perform given task. For whom The Print and Gen are waiting for, to file a PIL.
    If both feel so strong about do that!

  8. People like gen panag are retrograde ,detrimental to the progress of the organization ,to busy in ego conflicts ,sadly but there are such people in the organization ,and let us not talk about his personal life ..this dissatisfaction is coming from there

  9. Standard operating procedures ..can anyone explain to the stone pelters? ? If someone explains ..can they listen?? We should explain our thoughts in their language ..then only they will know ..our major did it perfectly in their way by tieing those anti nationals in front of jeep..

  10. In a precarious situation Major Gogoi had taken the right decision by tying the stonepeltet in front of his geep is a good decision thereby saving the lives of his men from the stone pelters.Army chief has commended his actions, which is a welcome sign. Long live our Jawans.

  11. Stone pelting by crowds is one of the methods of annihiliating the enemy in Islam. Hamas picked it up directly from hadith against jewish Isreal. Kashmiris adapted it from Hamas against so called Hindu India.
    Choice is clear. Fight the leathal stone pelters with thier own weapons, that is human beings. Human shield of Stone pelting kashmiris is only effective strategy against this menace.
    Major Gagio needs to be complimented for inventing a counter war doctrine.
    Care should be taken, pick up the pelters or sangbaazs from the crowd itself. Do not pick boys from homes. If girls are there use women soldiers to make them human shield.
    Govt should enact a hybrid war law on this.
    If this law falls foul against FRs.
    Seek exceptions. One side folowing law, the other lawless. What an asymmetrical war is it.

  12. It’s sad that this subject of human shield has become a national issue. We have virtually made a mountain of a mole hill. Maj Gogoi would have been accountable if that fellow, who was tied to his jeep would have been an innocent fellow. But the fact is, he was one of the stone pelters. Moreover whatever Maj Gogoi had done was a decision taken at the spur of the moment. It was not a pre planned or pre mediated action… He was tasked to extricate the ITBP men who had got sorrounded. To pass through these stone pelters and extricate these ITBP men, when he was not permitted to open fire , definitely it was a very wise decision. Otherwise how could he pass through the hostile mob pelting stones ? Tactics in field is nothing but human ingenunity. Military history testifies it. .After all what else he could do ? Please also understand, all is fair in love and war.. It is therefore pathetic we are punishing a young officer.. ..What is most disconcerting the present army Chief , Gen Bipin Rawat has openly upheld Maj Gogoi punishment.. ….I am also an ex army officer. Gen Bipin Rawat is more of DISGRACE to the institution of Indian Army. Instead of supporting his young officer, he is more given to getting political accolades for himself. .. After all Gen Rawat had superseded a few seniors when being appointed as Chief. How it happpened, should we mention it, for it embrass Mr Ajit Doval.. ? In any case Gen Rawat has now proved his worthlessness.. My only fear is , the army in India is a British legacy. It should not get “Indianized” owing to these political interferences. …. Just a few days back , the Indian army has been nicknamed as “Modi Army” by Shri Aditya Yoginath.

    In any case I have my all sympathies & support for Maj Gogoi.

  13. Request to all to do some fact finding before clicking down your vengeant emotions for entertainment of entire world
    making mockery of IA and the nation.
    Large No of ppl do not know who was the real Army Cdr…CS Panag or HS Panag.
    Please check your facts before becoming clikfree soldiers.

  14. I don’t know army rules, Major Gogoi is the right person for the post of ‘Chief of the Army staff ‘ coz he knows how to win the war. He should be Next after Gen. Rawat.

  15. Most of us have tendency of viewing facts through wrong context lens, General Panag is no different. Arm chair operational control seems to be favourite national pass time. Though there is a framework which governs the operational response of tactical teams in most situations, but every once in a while a tactical team is faced with situation outside the framework. It’s at times like these, that a tactical team commander needs to improvise to survive. Situation faced by Major Gogoi was one such situation, and what he did or did not do is beyond the scope of Arm Chair Commanders. Period.

  16. gen panag has been cribbing all along against Major Gogoi, when he in a feat of exemplary courage saved the EC staff and ITBP personnel from the wrath of the marauding, savage, blood thirsty stone pelters. what would have this shameless general said if Major Gogoi had opened fire in self defence and killed some of the nasty stone pelters. Panag would have still vilified the heroic major and accused him of murdering innocent youths. Panag seems to be having a dangerous agenda in slandering those in the line of duty.

  17. A fake person. He made mockery of himself as a general troubling officers wherever he went. A stupid person.

  18. On one hand we say everything is fair in love and war. The Indian army is facing a constant warlike situation in J&K since 1989. The civil administration has put its hands up and handed over the situation to the army. Now leave the situation to the men on the spot to deal with such situations as deemed fit. The end result only matters. It is easier to criticise some actions taken in the heat of the moment. If it has paid off , give due credit and stop becoming a paper tiger sitting in an AC environment and with the benefit of a hindsight.

  19. If The Print can handle the stone pelters then raise fingers on Major. Also why u r so silent on Pakistan terror, kashmiri Pandits and on the bad condition of Pakistani Hindus.

  20. I completely agree with Mr Srinivasan. Maj Gogoi formula of dealing with stone peltors and saving the government officials was a show of gutts and presence of mind in that situation. Iam proud of his act.

  21. General using a stone pelter as a human shield seems to have been the only way out from a situation which was ripe for blood shed. I think the choice was of choosing between two evils. One being with virtually assured bloodshed and the other probably blood free but morally incorrect. What would you have chosen?

  22. Couldn’t have agreed more Sir. The human shield case is a blot on the ethos and traditions of Indian Army. I was even more saddened to see that Maj. Gogoi addressed the media, and that the table used during the media briefing had an tablecloth with the RR emblem on it. It was like the entire force legitimizing his actions. Also, the award of a Commendation Card was a knee jerk reaction and short sightedness on part of the COAS, came across to me that he was playing into the hands of jingoists.

    In doing this what the officer himself and the current top brass if the Army as well as political leadership, and all the common folks cheering him, do not realize is that through his one small action we risk losing the narrative. We have taken great pains to win the hearts and minds of the locals, this one action can alienate us altogether. On the contrary it will give more ammo to Pakistan and its supporters, who have been trying to build a narrative of Indian Army as an occupation force. Kind of “winning the battle, losing the War” I say.

    • You can never win war with Islam .all european city is doomed .now your pastor are moulvi. You are only think from religious angle that’s why u support this general . Fact is that the day hindu buffer is vanished. They will turn and onslaught you . Just like there is no Christain in Islamic country.

  23. Did this Preacher really served army??? What the hell.. Human shield s the best thing that the great Indian army cud hav ever done to control, ruthless, uncultured, antinational Kashmiris.. i whole heartedly appreciate it. M sure this person has beem bribed by antinationals. Else these statements wudnt even have come so shamelessly

  24. Seniority or no seniority to Major Gogoi is another matter. The fact remains that using a human shield, who was also a culprit, against stone pelters to confuse them and also to save the life of trapped ITBP soldiers was a brilliant out of the box solution. Major Gogoi shall always be remembered for this act.

  25. I am shocked he became a Lt Gen ! How he cried in front of all officers when he was shunted out of Northern Comd , all offrs in NC know that , he openly criticised the Chief infront of offrs during his address at Leh. He should have been Court martialled !
    I don’t want to comment further on his handling of his personal life . We know that too well . May God give him wisdom to be real not fake .

  26. It is written…Election commission officers were being saved….. Major could have followed SOP…And then faced…Not enough was done to save election commission officer.
    First decide what the Govt wants…Saving it’s own officers or stone Peters.

  27. It’s easy. Give 6-months seniority for the human shield and take away 6-months seniority for the hotel Mamta incident. This way the Major is not harmed. Otherwise, allow the Major to stand for elections from anywhere.

  28. The writer is a real enemy of our nation. We need to be careful from this opportunist greedy traitors. They can’t even think of such a situation which was handled by Maj Gogoi so cleverly. Actually we need to tie person like him to vehicle and move around stone Pelters.

    And this Retd. General needs to think a lot before giving such comment…It is sure, he never faced such situation as an young officer.

  29. General, Do you have any idea how to deal with a stone pelting mob by our security forces? Unfortunately there was no stone pelting when you were a young officer. Don’t preach, give a solution to this malady facing our brave soldiers on the ground. As GOC in C, Northern Command, you were an influencial man. What was your contribution to ensuring that we don’t get to this situation?

    • Srinivas
      Asking someone who has served 40yrs in army in different ranks? U must be kidding.
      Don’t get blinded by jingoistic nationalism to support a wrong.

      • Sayed…just don’t say in favour of a stone pelter bcz you both belong to same religion. I’m sure if the pelter would have been Hindu, your comment would have been different.

      • Request to all to do some fact finding before clicking down your vengeant emotions for entertainment of entire world
        making mockery of IA and the nation.
        Large No of ppl do not know who was the real Army Cdr…CS Panag or HS Panag.
        Please check your facts before becoming clikfree soldiers.

      • You must be an ignorant ass. This general is a joker who survived Army without seeing any real action and only using his contacts for safe hideouts.

    • His brother was GOC in C Northern Comd and not the author of this absurd rubbish article .

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