Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi came in the limelight when he tied a Kashmiri stone-pelter on the bonnet of his jeep to make a human shield. The clash between civilians and the army is not new. However, in the past few months, the conditions have only worsened. Each side has a story; this is the story of an army officer deployed in the troubled waters of Kashmir.
Gogoi belongs to the humble town of Namrup, near Dibrugarh. It used to be a base for ULFA (The United Liberation Front of Assam) activities. Now, the face of this town has changed due to industrial development.
His father, Dharmeswar Gogoi, proud of his son, fondly recalls how Gogoi wanted to be a part of Indian army since childhood.
He was determined to serve the country and, at the age of 18, he joined the Indian army as a Jawan in the 3rd Battalion of Assam Regiment. Major Gogoi served as a Jawan (Sepoy) for 9 years in the same regiment before being commissioned as a Lieutenant in December 2008.
In April 2017, he was given the responsibility of the security of forces, election staff, and EVM machines in violence-marred Srinagar by-polls. As we are acquainted with the social unrest of the land, it was Gogoi’s duty to maintain decorum in such a volatile environment.
The events that transpired on the fateful day of the elections became a national and ideological issue of right and wrong. He found himself on a mission to save ITBP personnel and polling staff from a violent crowd of 1200. The crowd started pelting stones on them. Gogoi explains in his account,
They became more violent and petrol bombs were also hurled….At that moment of time suddenly the idea of tying him up in the vehicle came. By seeing this the stone-pelting had stopped for a while. We got a window to come out safely from that area.
To put things in perspective, by showing presence of mind, he saved many lives and defused the situation. However, his actions were criticized as an act against human rights. Army’s court of inquiry was commissioned to look into the matter.
Gogoi further explains,
I did this only to save local people. Had I fired, there would have been more than 12 casualties. With this idea, I saved many peoples’ lives,
The Indian Army Chief has honored Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi of 53 Rashtriya Rifles for “sustained efforts” in counterinsurgency operations which made the army’s stand clear on the matter.
In the wake of this event, CM of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah tweeted:
In future pls don’t bother with the farce of a military court of inquiry. Clearly the only court that matters is the court of public opinion
— Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) May 23, 2017
An FIR was lodged against Major Gogoi by Farooq Ahmed Dar (the Kashmiri youth who was tied to the jeep). Even though the majority stands in favor of Gogoi, Jammu and Kashmir police have announced that regardless of the commendation card awarded to Major Gogoi, the investigation will continue.
Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi belongs to that side of the conflict where the whole country sympathizes with his actions. What would you expect from a man who is responsible for not just the lives of his own fellows, but is also expected to not attack the civilians? Gogoi has broken his silence on the matter which will bring clarity on the issue, sooner or later.