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Two senior former Army officers have backed the award of a commendation card to Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a man to a jeep in Kashmir as a shield against stone-pelters, but a retired general said the move was unbecoming of the force's traditions. Gogoi, a Major in the 53 Rashtriya Rifles, has been honoured with the Army Chief's commendation card for his "sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations". Major Gen (retd) Ramesh Chopra came out in support of Gogoi's action. "With his innovative thinking, he saved lives of people and that has to be appreciated. I give him full marks for his presence of mind," Chopra said. However, Lt Gen (retd) H S Panag, former GOC-in-C, Northern Command, criticised the move, saying Gogoi's action was unbecoming of the traditions of the Indian Army. "IA (Indian Army) traditions, ethos, rules & regulations swept away by the 'mood of the nation'! I stand by my views even if I am the last man standing!" Panag tweeted. Col Anil Kaul (retd), who had served in the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka, said Gogoi deserved more than a commendation card because of his "out-of-the-box thinking". "He saved lives of people without even firing a bullet despite being attacked by stone-pelters.
His act should be applauded and he should be given a Shaurya Chakra," Kaul said.Gogoi, who hails from Assam, had yesterday said that about 1,200 stone-pelters had surrounded a small group of security personnel at a polling booth in Utligam village of Budgam district on April 9. He claimed that if he had ordered firing, there could have been at least 12 casualties. The mob, which included women and children, was threatening to set ablaze the polling booth, he claimed. Amidst the mob, Gogoi claimed, he saw a man who appeared to be the "ring leader" as he was "instigating" the stone-pelters at Utlgam on the day of bypoll to the Srinagar Lok Sabha constituency. He said the idea of tying the man, who was later identified as Farooq Ahmad Dar, to the jeep had struck him suddenly as a means to evacuate the polling staff and the paramilitary personnel, besides avoiding any casualties.