People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), a civil liberties organisation, has issued a statement on the incident where Major Gogoi of 56 Rastriya Rifles had allegedly tried to get sexual favors from a young Kashmiri girl. Reacting to the claim of the Jammu and Kashmir police – that the case was related to two “consenting” adults – it said: “PUDR draws attention to the facts of the case which suggest it to be one of abuse of power by an army man in a “disturbed area”. 

Earlier, on May 23, Jammu and Kashmir police got a call from a local hotel alleging that a man has been involved in altercations with the hotel staff. When the police reached the spot, it was found out that Major Gogoi was reportedly trying to enter the hotel with a young girl who was a Budgam resident. The hotel administration claimed to have objected to it, as they argued that their policy does not allow locals to stay in the hotel. Following this intervention, Gogoi had an altercation with the hotel employee. It is reported that the Major had booked a room for two guests and had checked into the hotel.

This incident drew flak instantly because Major Gogoi is the same Army personnel, who had infamously tied a civilian named Farooq Dar to the bonnet of an army jeep in the valley. This inhumane act that took place on April 9, 2017 had become quite a controversy. But, the Army had claimed that it was done with an intent to escape stone-pelters during the bypolls. To the surprise of many, the army not only saved the Major, but General Bipin Rawat issued a commendation card to the Major, applauding him.

After the Jammu and Kashmir police filed a status report in the alleged harassment case in front of chief judicial magistrate of Srinagar on May 30, PUDR has issued their statement on June 3. In the report, the police has argued that the girl, who is seen here as a victim is a 19 year old adult, and this is a case of consenting adults, they also claim that neither she nor the hotel where they were to stay has filed any complaint in the matter. Hence, they have said that Gogoi won’t be booked under any case. On the other hand, PUDR argues, “The police’s emphasis on the absence of complaint as evidence of consent, is questionable as it fails to address the fears that civilian have of men in uniform in a conflict area where, under the AFSPA, the military enjoys enhanced powers and immunity. The circumstances of this present case as reported in the press, illustrate this impunity.”

As pointed out in the statement, it has been reported in the media that Major Gogoi had allegedly barged into the house of the girl twice before the incident. Talking to the reporters, the girl’s mother had claimed, “I fainted when Army Major Leetul Gogoi barged into our house one night and started enquiring about our well-being. He was accompanied by another man, and both were in civilian clothes. Later, I came to know that the man accompanying Gogoi was Sameer Mala from Lokipora Poshkar.”

It is also reported that Gogoi was talking to the girl from a fake Facebook account, which interestingly had a Muslim name. Though the family has not filed any complaint, but PUDR has alleged that this might as well be because they are scared of the consequences.

Their statement further says that this is not the first time that an Army personnel has been found guilty of “sexual malpractices, aided by their positions of power.” It says, “While custodial rape and human trafficking are one end of the spectrum, it needs to be remembered that the power of the uniform make refusal impossible, all the more so if the woman is a local person, and in a war zone. In this context it is important to note the CBI’s verdict given on May 30, 2018 regarding the infamous May 2006 Sex Scam case which exposed the widespread sexual exploitation by powerful persons in J&K including senior officers engaged in counter-insurgency operations.”

Human rights activist and a member of PUDR Gautam Navlakha said, “We should understand that in the conflict zone such as Kashmir, the power structures are such that victim would not come out and speak against an army officer; especially, when the girl is coming from such a modest background. When the army officer is using a fake ID on Facebook, and is intimidating the girl’s family, how can we say that there is no foul play involved in the case?

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