An Indian officer accused of tying a man to a jeep and using him as a human shield in New Delhi-administered Kashmir has won a commendation from the army chief, prompting anger and criticism from rights activists.
Last month, a video went viral on social media showing Farooq Ahmad Dar, a young Kashmiri man, tied to the front of an Indian army jeep to deter protesters from throwing stones at the military vehicle, causing outrage across the Indian-controlled Himalayan valley.
However, the Indian military said Monday that Leetul Gogoi, who is still under investigation over the incident, was commended last week for his “counter-insurgency efforts.”
“Major Gogoi has been awarded chief of army staff’s Commendation Card for sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations,” the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency quoted army spokesman Aman Anand as saying late Monday.
Dar has denied any involvement in anti-India protests, saying he does not know why he had been singled out by the military.
Reacting to the news, the victim’s brother Ghulam Qadir slammed the inquiry as a “mockery.”
“He has confined himself to his room. Had this kind of an incident taken place elsewhere then justice would have been done,” the Indian Express daily quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, Kashmiri human rights activist Khurram Parvez said the award shows the Indian military could enjoy “absolute impunity” in the region.
“This reward means India upholds torture as a means of saving lives and as a part of its counter-insurgency war in Kashmir,” he told AFP.
The region has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two partitioned and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory.
The Muslim-majority region has witnessed an increase in mass protests and violent attacks since early July 2016, when Burhan Wani, a top figure in a pro-independence group, was killed in a shootout with Indian troops.
Nearly 100 people have lost their lives and more than 12,000 have been injured in the ensuing crackdown by the Indian army.
The crackdown has failed to halt the protests against Indian rule in Kashmir.