16 April 2024 04:02 PM



Revoke Major Gogoi’s Commendation Certificate

The Citizen Editorial

When the unsavoury news broke of Army Major Leetul Gogoi being held in a Srinagar hotel with a girl The Citizen took a conscious decision not to report. For two reasons, the story was being carried by the mainstram media. And two, at that stage it seemed personal to the officer and the woman with him. Elements of exploitation were yet to be confirmed. But the mother of the girl has changed all that with a statement where she has recorded “two raids” by the Army Major at her house. Both “raids” at night where he along with one Samer Ahmad who the Jammu and Kashmir police claim is also an Army soldier, are a clear indication of the blatant misuse of the uniform to strike terror in a poor household, and have his way as the hotel incident further confirms. It brings back to a traumatised Valley the deep and murky shadows of the 1990’s when the Army role in such exploitation, on a much wider scale, has been documented by not just human rights groups but visiting delegations of scholars and public intellectuals. The stories of exploitation and rape of local women by the soldiers emerged from the darkness of those years, some confirmed, some challenged. But this became a part of the narrative of the violence of the 1990’s, where innocent Kashmiris were placed at the mercy of both the Army and the militants.

Over the years much of this had changed, with efforts at peace yeilding results. And the behaviour of the soldiers managed fairly well by the respective commanding officers. Gogoi serves as a case in point and should be a screaming example for the Army seniors to not condone the inhuman, as this gives encouragement for even worse. Gogoi was in the news in April last year for trying a young Kashmiri to his jeep as a human shield and parading him through Chil-Brass village in Budgam district during the Srinagar parliamentary elections. Even as the photograph and the news shocked the world outside Kashmir as well, the Indian Army and the government and indeed senior leaders ---including Congress Chief Minister Amarinder Singh---rushed to congratulate him for a task well done.

The Army went on to honour the Major by giving him a commendation certificate for a clearly heinous act. There was no recognition of the trauma undergone by the Kashmiri youth, completely innocent of any crime (although that too would not have justified this treatment) and instead the major was publicly felicitated with the news being propagated as a major achievement of the Army. Senior retired army officials were aghast with many of them expressing their dismay at this avatar lof the force that they had served with great pride.

Clearly the commendation certificate carried a special message for Gogoi: that Kashmir is a playing field for him to exploit. Nothing less can explain the two raids that so terrified the family of the young girl that the poor mother fainted when she saw the Army soldier at her doorstep, and the subsequent room booked in a well known hotel, where the girl was then brought to him.

The Army Chief who has set the lead for action until the last militant in Kashmir is stamped out, should keep up his vocal presence to speak about Gogoi, the soldier who he made the epitome of the new Army strategy by hailing his earlier action and commending him for what clearly constituted a human rights violation. As the two incidents are linked, in terms of behaviour and attitude towards Kashmir where Gogoi seems to be helping himself to what he probably perceives as the spoils of occupation. First in terms of the humiliation and trauma he subjected a young Kashmir to, and then through the raids and the exploitation of a young woman and her family. What transpired between those raids and the girls appearance at his hotel should interest the Chief of Army Staff .

Meanwhile General Bipin Rawat should immediately revoke as a first step, the commendation certificate bestowed on Gogoi in the glare of publicity a year ago. That might not help the Kashmiris but could at least serve as a reassurance that the Army top brass is concerned about professionalism and discipliine and that even Gogoi, so warmly commended, is fallible.