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    Monday, May 22, 2017

    Indian army awards officer who tied Kashmiri man to jeep as human shield

    The Indian army's Major Nitin Gogoi, who had tied a 26-year-old Kashmiri man to a jeep as human shield, has been praised by the military and awarded a commendation card, reports Indian media.
    "Major Gogoi, the officer who tied protester to jeep as human shield in J&K awarded by COAS for sustained efforts in counter insurgency operations," tweeted ANI.According to media reports, the officer was awarded for his "sustained efforts” in counterinsurgency. Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat awarded Maj Gogoi of Rashtriya Rifles branch with a commendation card.
    The incident, which took place on April 9 this year, surfaced through a video clip that was circulating on social media. The video went viral within hours and sparked overwhelming protests and violence across the India-held Kashmir.

    Victim account

    26-year-old Farooq Ahmad Dar, a resident of Chil village, said while talking about the fateful day that he left his home early that morning to make his way to the polling station at the local middle school as elections were under way.
    He returned home that night with his left arm broken and after having being paraded through tens of kilometres.
    Dar recalls that after casting his vote, he got on to his motor cycle to attend a condolence meeting at his sister’s house 20km away. A few kilometres before his destination, Dar said he was stopped by an army patrol, led by a major.
    After looking at his identity card, they questioned him about why he was so far from his home. They then began to beat him up and accused him of being a stone pelter, said Dar while adding that there were no visible disturbances in the area when they stopped him.
    He said they thrashed him for 20 minutes before attempted to push him into a stream. My leg was immersed in the water but I managed to push myself back and got back up, he said.
    The soldiers then tied him to a vehicle and paraded him “through 10-20 villages” with a piece of paper attached to his chest declaring that he was a stone pelter, Dar said.
    “They humiliated me publicly,” Dar said.
    At 4 in the evening, Dar said he was taken to a Central Reserve Paramilitary Force camp in Hardapanzoo where, he alleges, he was “still tied up and not offered water.” Later, Dar said he was taken on another ride, this time inside a jeep. At around 8 pm on that day he was released from the Rayar camp of the army near Arizal.

    Follow up

    Following the condemnations and outrage, the Indian army announced that the incident was being investigated. Indian Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said in a statement that the video was being examined.
    “The contents of the video are being verified and investigated,” he said.
    The state's chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, claimed that a First Information Report (FIR) was also lodged at a local police station against the army unit. She sought a detailed report from the state police.
    Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said he will look into it.
    Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted the video, noting that: "A warning can be heard saying that stone pelters [in held Kashmir] will meet this fate. This requires an urgent inquiry and follow up now."

    'Why the noise over Kashmir human shield'

    In response to the condemnations, India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had disapproved of growing criticism of a human shield the army used in Indian Kashmir to thwart stone-pelting protesters.
    “The recent report about a stone pelter tied to an Army vehicle, it helped contain stone pelters and saved the poll officials. Why so much noise,” Mr Rohatgi said.
    “Everyday people are dying. It’s a surcharged atmosphere. The Army is dealing with terrorists not with protesters, so they will have to be dealt with...everyone should look at the Army with pride, they are doing a great job.”
    Veteran Indian actor and Lok Sabha lawmaker Paresh Rawal caused an uproar on social media after proposing on Twitter that award-winning novelist Arundhati Roy should be tied to an army jeep.
    Referring to an incident earlier last month where a Kashmiri youth was tied to the front of an Indian army jeep as a human shield and paraded in the streets, Rawal said: "Instead of tying stone-pelters on the army jeep, tie Arundhati Roy."Rawal's tweet provoked many users to express their anger on the social media platform, with one user saying, "Am deeply moved by your empathy that brings every character to life in movies. But I'm shocked by your ability to be so violent with words!"One user reminded Rawal of the legal ramifications of his tweet, saying: "You do know that this tweet could get you behind bars for incitement to violence?"One user mocked the veteran actor's tweet by insisting that he was venting his frustration for not being able to understand Arundhati Roy's Booker prize-winning The God of Small Things.However, there were some who echoed Rawal's sentiments and came out in support of the actor's tweet.
    One user even insisted that Roy should be subjected to physical violence for her supposedly anti-India views. "Every Indian should be violent, physically, with a traitor like Arundhati Roy who always raises her voice against India.
    When a gang of thugs ambushed a Mumbai book launch by dousing the compere in ink, India's literati saw the attack as yet another blot on the country's reputation for tolerance since Narendra Modi came to power and dozens of writers returned India's highest literary honor to protest growing climate of intolerance in the country.
    "Such attacks may have happened earlier too but this time it's different," said celebrated writer and historian Nayantara Sahgal, following Monday's incident.
    "Now the ruling ideology is Hindutva, which, in a classic fascist tactic, demands that all Indians think alike," Sahgal told AFP.
    The 88-year-old niece of India's first premier Jawaharlal Nehru caused a storm earlier this month when she handed back her 'Sahitya Akademi Award' which is bestowed by the government to honour India's leading writers.
    As of Wednesday, 41 writers from across the country have since followed suit, several of them saying they were protesting the "rising culture of intolerance" since the right-wing Modi won a landslide election last year.
    The novelists, essayists, playwrights and poets had returned the awards they received from India's prestigious literary academy, saying they cannot remain silent about numerous incidents of communal violence or attacks on intellectuals across the country over the past year.
    The writers, who write in English as well as regional languages, are also angry that India's National Academy of Letters has said little about the attack on the well-known rationalist Malleshappa Kalburgi, an award-winning writer in the Kannada language gunned down in August for his writings against superstition and false beliefs.
    India's overwhelmingly left-leaning cultural elite has never been a fan of Modi or his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which has an unashamedly Hindu nationalist agenda.
    But while there was an uneasy truce between the two sides during Modi's first year in office, a series of recent episodes have prompted many to warn of a major threat to India's cultural and religious pluralism.

    'Not my India'

    The killing of a leading rationalist author in the southern state of Karnataka in August sent a shiver down writers' spines, while the recent lynching of a Muslim accused of eating beef caused further deep unease.
    Police have detained for questioning several Hindu activists for applauding writer MM Kalburgi's murder.
    "I cannot accept, leave aside understand, that in my country scholars are murdered because they have campaigned against religious superstition or because they've criticised Hindu idol worship," the prominent television journalist Karan Thapar wrote recently in The Hindustan Times.
    "And I'm appalled that a man is barbarically battered to death for eating beef or possessing it in his fridge. This is not my India. It can never be. And, yet, it is," Thapar said.
    Comments by Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma pledging to cleanse India of "cultural pollution" from the West, and that the Bible and Quran are "not central to the soul of India" in the same way as Hindu holy books, have fuelled fears that the country is being run by religious ideologues.
    The government has also been accused of appointing Hindu nationalists to prominent education and cultural positions, including chairman of the Film and Television Institute of India.
    Sharma, who is a close confidant of Modi, insisted the government would only tolerate protest that fell within "the democratic framework of our constitution", and condemned the murder in Karnataka.
    "As a minister, as a person, even if a single person is killed in any part of the country it pains us," he told AFP at his New Delhi office.
    "We criticise it in the strongest possible words. It should not happen." But asked to specifically condemn this week's ink attack in Mumbai, carried out during the launch of a book by a former Pakistan foreign minister, Sharma would only respond: "It should be (a) democratic protest."
    Several senior BJP members who are outside Modi's inner circle have voiced disquiet at recent events, with former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani condemning "increases in cases of intolerance".
    Modi, a prolific Twitter user, has drawn widespread flak for either remaining uncharacteristically silent or being conspicuously slow to react to the acts of violence.

    Rushdie weighs in

    "I think what's crept into Indian life now is a degree of thuggish violence, which is new," Indian-born author Salman Rushdie told the NDTV network. "And it seems to be, I have to say, given permission by the silence of official bodies... by the silence of the prime minister's office."
    "Modi is a very talkative gentleman, he has a lot to say on a lot of subjects and it would be very good to hear what he has to say about all this," added the British-based Booker prize winner who endorsed Sahgal's move to return her Sahitya Akademi award.
    On Wednesday, Modi broke his silence over the killing of an alleged beef-eater in the volatile state of Uttar Pradesh, describing the September 28 incident as "unfortunate".
    But the premier in the same interview with a local newspaper, also accused the opposition, not the BJP, of polarising the issue along communal lines.
    Modi's appeal last week for peace between Hindus and Muslims, without specifically referring to any incident, sparked criticism that more was needed from the premier in the wake of the lynching.
    Sharma's response to the criticism is that law and order is the responsibility of state governments and accusations that Modi's government is partly to blame says more about the political leanings of its critics.
    "Before this government came, there were many high-profile murders, incidents, and riots and none of these people said anything. So you have to ask yourself why they are only raising it now?"

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