VM ‘Use of human shield wrong, but don’t overlook Kashmir Valley circumstances’

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New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) With the Indian Army facing flak for using a man as a shield against stone pelters in Jammu and Kashmir, a former chief has said the action was a violation of its code on human rights — but added that the “exceptional circumstances” in Kashmir valley should also be kept in mind.

Former army chief General V.P. Malik said one should keep in mind the “exceptional circumstances” under which the army was functioning in the violence-hit valley, while former Army Chief General Bikram Singh (retired) said though it was a violation it was a “one off incident — an aberration”.

Asked about the April 13 incident in which a Kashmiri was shown tied to the front of a army jeep, Malik said: “We have to first understand the exceptional circumstances which are prevailing in the Valley today… Exceptional in the sense of the kind of agitations, stone pelting, abusing and pushing of armed services people…”

“There is no doubt it was a violation of the Army code on Human Rights, but then I think when we look at his (the indicted army officer) offence and his misdemeanour, you have to take into account the circumstances in which he was,” Malik added.

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“This is not a black and white case. If I was a Commander there, I would take into account all those circumstances.”

“This is an aberration, a one off incident, I am sure the Army will take corrective action… The Indian Army is a very big organisation which has always upheld the rule of law. The Army has been known for following the rules of engagement,” General Singh said.

“I really do not know under what circumstances the officer was compelled to adopt such a tactic. The facts will certainly come out in the inquiry already underway,” he said.

“Incidentally, the Indian Army is known to operate with a people-friendly stance even in situations marked by grave provocations,” Singh said, adding that the rules of engagement followed by the Indian Army have evolved from legal as well as moral constraints.

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He also said “uncorroborated inputs” suggest that the officer through this tactic was able to extricate the voting booth staff with the Electronic Voting Machine on April 13, the day of re-poll ordered for 38 booths for the Srinagar-Budgam parliamentary seat.

“I am told that about 350 stone-pelting locals had surrounded the election duty officials carrying the EVM and the ITBP (Indo-Tibetan Border Police) protection party. Imagine what would have happened if the ITBP had opened fire in self defence?”

“There would have been a large number of civilian casualties. So, let’s wait for the inquiry to be over,” he added.

A video, shot on April 13 during re-polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-polls was posted on social media last week showing a man, later identified as Farooq Ahmad Dar, being tied on the bonnet of an army jeep with a placard in Badgam.

The Indian Army is probing the incident.

An FIR has been registered by the Jammu and Kashmir Police against the security forces.

Malik said it was not a “good thing to happen”, but added, “You have to understand human nature. He (the army officer) was reacting to local circumstances. I would take all those things into account when you charge him for violation.”

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Asked about the FIR, Singh said the law should take its own course.

“Law of the land is supreme and I am certain that this incident, like all other earlier reported human rights violations, will also be investigated impartially and in the backdrop of the circumstances and of course, the officer’s intent,” Singh said.

He added that India should not let Pakistan’s “game plan” to succeed in the Kashmir Valley.

“I would only like to remind all those who are gunning for the officer without even knowing the facts that we need to be mindful of Pakistan’s game plan and not allow it to succeed.”

“While upholding human rights we also have to ensure that our actions do not unnecessarily impinge on the soldier’s morale,” he added.



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