A day after Major Leetul Gogoi was honoured by the Army, a protester – Farooq Ahmad Dar – whom the officer had tied to the bonnet of a jeep to save his men and election officials while moving through a violence-hit area in Srinagar last month, said he had gone to the area to vote, not to join the protests. Major Gogoi, however, asserted that he was instigating the protesters.
“Had we opened fire, there would have been a dozen casualties… I got a fraction of a moment to get out safely. I saved at least 12 lives,” said Major Gogoi, who received a Commendation Card from Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat on Monday.
A video of Mr Dar tied to the bonnet of a jeep in Srinagar was widely circulated last month. The video was shot on April 9, when by-polls were held for the Srinagar parliamentary seat. Army sources said the officer’s action that day was part of “sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations” for which he was given the recognition.
The 53 Rashtriya Rifles officer told reporters on Tuesday that he had made repeated appeals to the protesters, who were attacking the polling station, but they refused to listen. His team, he said, was under pressure as a mine-protected vehicle of the Army got stuck and a petrol bomb landed near them.
Major Leetul Gogoi said his men – and the election officials and security men he had gone to save following an SOS – had come under attack from more than a thousand protesters.
As the protesters threw stones and petrol bombs at them, the officer was forced to act fast to evacuate the officials and others. That was when, he said, he decided to tie a protester, Mr Dar, to the bonnet of his jeep, which then led the convoy to safety.
Mr Dar, who works as an artisan, is accused of being among the stone-throwers but claimed he was there only to vote.