The chief of India’s army has been accused of endorsing the use of human shields after he defended one of his subordinates who tied a civilian to a vehicle to allegedly deter violent protests in the disputed Muslim-majority region of Kashmir.
Gen. Bipin Rawat, the chief of staff of India’s Army, awarded the Indian military officer who allegedly tied the Kashmiri man, saying he wanted to boost the military’s morale.
Referring to the incident, the general said on Sunday that his soldiers were fighting a non-traditional war in Kashmir that called for the employment of “innovations.”
“The rules of engagements are there when the adversary comes face to face and fights with you,” he told the Press Trust of India (PTI).
He went on to describe the conflict in Kashmir as “a dirty war,” adding, “You fight a dirty war with innovations.”
“I wish these people [in Kashmir], instead of throwing stones at us, were firing weapons at us. Then I would have been happy. Then I could do what I [want],” also said the Indian military chief.
Although human rights groups such as Amnesty International have condemned the incident as “cruel, inhuman, and degrading,” and amounting to torture, senior government leaders, including India’s Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi have reportedly defended the military’s actions.
Pakistan, its ally China, and their rival India all have competing claims to Kashmir region.
In recent months, there have been repeated clashes between local militaries and armed groups along the border that divides the areas controlled by Pakistan and India.
According to the Guardian, “Footage of Farooq Ahmad Dar, 26, bound to the army vehicle first circulated in April, leading to separate military and police investigations and condemnation from human rights groups.”
The news outlet adds: “Dar says he was detained while passing through a town where women were throwing stones at soldiers. He alleges he was beaten, tied to a spare tyre on the bonnet of the vehicle and driven through neighboring villages for up to five hours.”
“This will be the fate of people who throw stones,” the victim told other Kashmiris, according the footage purportedly showing the incident.
On the day Dar was used as a human shield by the Indian military, violent protests fueled by elections had erupted in the region.
Indian security forces reportedly killed eight people that day.
In defending his actions, Nitin Leetul Gogoi, the Indian military officer who tied Dar to the vehicle claimed his actions were intended to prevent violent protests from escalating further.
“People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us,” he told reporters. “If my men ask me what do we do, should I say just wait and die?”
“Adversaries must be afraid of you and at the same time, your people must be afraid of you,” added Gogoi. “We are a friendly army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us.”
The majority of the predominantly Muslim residents of Kashmir reportedly favor overall independence from India or a merger with Pakistan.
India and Pakistan have already fought two wars over Kashmir, prompting the 2003 ceasefire that has been constantly violated in recent months.
An estimated 100 civilians were killed in only July and August of last year, reportedly marking the most violent summer in Kashmir in five years.
Already this year, more than a dozen people have been killed in clashes between Indian security forces and protesters who sometimes use explosives.
Moreover, authorities have imposed curfews an internet bans across Kashmir.
China has largely stayed in the shadows of the clashes between India and Pakistan.
However, that may soon change given that a portion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a component of Beijing’s multi-billion dollar modern Silk Road, is expected to run through territory in Kashmir disputed by India and Pakistan.
New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of arming and training militants in Kashmir fighting for independence or in favor of a merger with Pakistan, a charge that Islamabad denies.
Meanwhile, Islamabad accuses New Delhi of cracking down on dissent in India-held Kashmir.