From shock to a deep sense of cynicism: Kashmir reacts to Major Gogoi's commendation
Kashmir has been long used to the pointless enquiries into the human rights violations and the investigations against the erring personnel stonewalled by AFSPA. But now, the public opinion in Kashmir is struggling to reconcile with the reward given to Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi of 53 Rashtriya Rifles. Gogoi used a civilian as a human shield during Srinagar by-election in April, and has been rewarded for this.
The response to Gogoi being rewarded has ranged from an utter shock to a deep sense of cynicism over the state of affairs.
“What kind of moral order are we looking at when the world's largest democracy celebrates a war crime by its armed forces?” wrote the famous Kashmiri writer Mirza Waheed on his Facebook timeline.
“When a state rewards a possible war criminal and sections of media decide to normalise such unconscionable conduct, it is a point of no return.”
Waheed's post generated a long comment thread comprising largely of Kashmiri youth.
“The Government of India is celebrating its arrogance but history bears witness what has been the fate of arrogant nations. They are enjoying our hopelessness.
No holds barred
The civil society activists are looking at the development (Gogoi being rewarded) as the New Delhi's message that the gloves are off with regard to Kashmir and that the country won't be held back by either principles of human rights or the rule of law.
“The Government of India is giving out a message that they will get away with anything. They are upholding torture as a counter-insurgency and a war strategy. There is no country which will publicly uphold torture in today’s world, but India does,” said the noted human rights defender Khurram Parvez.
“But this will be problematic for India too. The behaviour of army and the police that they are promoting and condoning in Kashmir, how can they condemn the same behaviour in India? Something you are encouraging at the institutional-level against a community will soon happen at the people’s level. And this is already happening in parts of India. Look at the lynchings.”
One biggest casualty of Major Gogoi being rewarded, many Kashmir observers believe, will be New Delhi’s already eroded moral high ground in Kashmir.
“Look, after this reward you are in no position to preach Kashmiris what is right and what is wrong. You can’t tell people the killing of Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz is bad and using a human shield is a military feat that deserves a medal,” says the commentator Gowhar Geelani.
“The point is that after this development, New Delhi’s discourse on Kashmir lacks any moral underpinning. It is now entirely about the might and its rightness. There are no principles. The relationship between Kashmir and New Delhi is one between resistance and its subjugation. Isn’t this what occupation is all about?”
“Here was a person who was among the minuscule group of people who had defied separatist groups and the protesters to vote, thereby daring to side with New Delhi amid an all-out separatist campaign in Kashmir. But instead of rising to his defence, New Delhi has sanctioned his torture by its Army,” said local columnist Naseer Ahmad.
How to lose Kashmir 101
The reward has also elicited strong reactions from the separatist groups.
“Government, as well as its institutions that operate here, have internalised the occupational mindset toward the people of Kashmir. Rewarding the violators of human rights in Kashmir shows that Delhi is not interested in political engagement in Kashmir,” moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said.
“This is a deliberate message from the Indian government to the Kashmiris that it wants to suppress the struggle in the state by the use of force.”
Similarly, in a statement, Syed Ali Geelan linked the human shield controversy to Kulbushan Jadhav issue and called on the International Court of Justice to take suo moto action against Major Gogoi.
“It is ridiculous to award the officer for the insensitive human shield incident. It is not an exemplary act. How did he save lives? The youth was arrested in Beerwah when the situation was quite peaceful and normal. It is a fabricated story and the lame excuse to save the erring official,” Geelani wrote.
JKLF supremo Yasin Malik said that the commendation of the army officer had not come as a surprise – “Much before this commendation, so-called politicians with a fascist mindset have termed this act as self-defense.”
Among the mainstream parties, the ruling PDP, the BJP's coalition partner, termed the award to Major Gogoi “not proper”.
The party's general secretary Nizamuddin Bhat said that honouring Gogoi was not proper as the act was “a human rights violation”.
“If the officer has been rewarded for this bravado, I do not feel this is proper,” Bhat told reporters in Srinagar.
“The stand of the PDP is that this seems wrong in public perception. This is a human rights violation and there should be an investigation.”
The National Conference, in a statement, termed the award as “a slap across the face of Kashmir”.
Interestingly, there is also an FIR against Major Gogoi filed by the Kashmir Police. According to the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, the FIR won’t be quashed, adding that an investigation into the matter was ongoing.
However, few people set any store by it, least of all the victim Farooq Ahmad Dar.
“What will an FIR do?” asked Dar.
“How can you reward and investigate an army officer for the same action and at the same time?”
Sitting at his home, Dar feels scared by the media attention he is getting.
“I am a poor man. I don’t know what to do or what to say. All I can say is that it is the murder of justice and reward to oppression.”
Edited by Jhinuk Sen