By Inamul Haq
Farooq Ahmad Dar, an embroidery artisan, hailing from the district of Budgam, is a shattered and broken man today. Going to cast vote in a so-called democracy changed his whole life. The young man with magical hands lived a happy life with his mother, Farzi Begum. Economically, Dar’s family is backward. His hard work and passion for handicrafts allowed him to provide for his mother, who is physically weak and dependent on medicines.
On April 09, 2017, Dar was tied in front of an army jeep by Major Nitin Leetul Gogoi, in order to escape from stone-pelters. According to Dar, he was on his way from a condolence gathering. He was paraded across 28 villages before being released. His video went viral on social media, which caused huge uproar across ideological divide.
After being used as a human shield by the Indian army and then labelled a stone-pelter, Dar is now a shunned man. Ever since, he has been struggling to rebuild his life; he suffers from insomnia and depression. The 28-year-old Dar has been unable to find a job and is still fighting for justice. Incidentally, his tormentor, Major Gogoi, has been recently honoured by the Indian Army.
Human shield: A prohibited practice
The use of civilians as shield has become one of the major problems in contemporary armed conflicts. It has become an important weapon in waging a new type of warfare that relies on the belligerent’s observance of international law. The use of human shield is widely prohibited by Geneva conventions, additional protocol I, and the statute of International Criminal Court. Besides, it is also prohibited in numerous manuals. Human shield constitutes offence under the legislation of many states. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1948, provides in Article 3 that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person,” and in Article 9 that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.” Similarly, Article 9(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states: “everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.” It is remarkable that the world’s largest democracy defies such conventions, despite being a signatory to them.
The J&K State Human Rights Commission had proceeded with Dar’s case and after completing the investigation, the SHRC pressurized the coalition government of PDP-BJP to give a compensation of rupees 10 lakh to the victim. However, this was rejected by the administration on the ground that the stone-pelters cannot be glorified. However, the same government remained silent, when BJP spokesperson, Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, initiated a T-Shirt campaign, which embossed a picture of Dar being used as a human shield by the Indian Army. The T-shirt bears the words: “Saving your ass, whether you like it or not!”
As if taking a cue from that incident, Sajid Nadiadwala produced and Ahmed Khan directed Bollywood potboiler, Baaghi 2 (2018), glorified the Army major for using a human shield. The Hindi film industry, Bagga’s T-shirt campaign, the self-proclaimed nationalists, mainstream media persons, army generals, and lawyers appreciated Major Gogoi for such abuse of power.
In a recent interview with PTI, Dar says, “What was my mistake? Going to the polling booth and casting my ballot?…I am unable to sleep. Even medicines are ineffective. No one is giving me any work.”
Inamul Haq, PhD Candidate, Centre for Gandhian Thought and Peace Studies, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar, Gujarat, India.
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