Thursday, June 15, 2017

Indian human shield case

Retired Major General S. G. Vombatkere, who retired as Additional DG Discipline & Vigilance in Indian Army HQ AG's Branch, has written a thought-provoking op-ed for The Citizen on a recent incident in which a man was used as a human shield. He writes in part:
Major [Leetul] Gogoi's unconventional initiative was a gamble played between the safety and success of the mission against the safety and [human rights] of Farooq Ahmed Dar. Fortunately the gamble paid off at least insofar as Major Gogoi and his command and the personnel rescued are concerned. What was lost was Farooq Ahmed Dar's HR and humiliation. 
Attempting to balance the “gain” of Major Gogoi (successfully rescuing the personnel and accomplishing his mission without casualties) against the “loss” of Farooq Ahmed Dar (violation of HR and intense humiliation) is not to trivialize the matter. However, this “balancing” can only be done by looking at the larger public good. To this writer's mind, more and longer lasting public good was achieved by Major Gogoi in saving the election personnel and avoiding casualties, than was lost by the undoubted illegal confinement of Farooq Ahmed Dar and violating his HR. 
The matter could and perhaps should have been resolved by completing the due process of the Commission of Inquiry, and then calmly and deliberately deciding whether or not Major Gogoi should be commended for his action, and if to be commended, do it unobtrusively. However, even while the C of I was in process, the Army Chief publicly commended Major Gogoi, thereby making the C of I useless – the Presiding Officer and Members of the C of I would not have been in a position to record their findings and views without prejudice. Effectively, the Army Chief intervened in the due process of military law, and provided unnecessary publicity to a controversial incident. 
Worse, by commending Major Gogoi so openly (it could have been done discreetly, without pugnacious statements) the incident has become politicised, while the message sent by the army chief to the junior leaders who face bullets, grenades and stones on a daily basis, is that using a human shield is okay. 
In the future, another young officer in a similar situation may premeditatively resort to Major Gogoi's spontaneous tactical precedent with the assurance that even if he is not commended, he will at the least not be proceeded against under military law. Thus using a human shield could well become a practice.
Is the author on firm ground in suggesting that "the larger public good" can justify what was done to Mr Dar?

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