One of the ugliest tactics in modern warfare has been the use of "human shields." From Serbia to Sri Lanka and Gaza, armed combatants have been accused of putting civilian lives at risk on the frontlines in order to protect themselves. If the enemy attacks innocent bystanders on site, it risks committing a grave human rights violation. But even if the 1949 Geneva Conventions rightly stipulates that the use of human shields itself constitutes a war crime, it is a practice that often remains in the shadows.
Last month, a horrifying video circulated on YouTube has brought the practice to light in an unprecedented way in Kashmir, another region long mired in conflict over disputed territory between India and Pakistan.
A 26-year-old local Kashmiri man was strapped onto the front hood of an Indian Army jeep, as a deterrent against anti-military protesters throwing stones. Farooq Ahmad Dar's body became a literal shield for more than six hours, while the Army convoy drove through more than 10 different villages in the region during an election-day patrol.
The incident come amid a long history of alleged human rights atrocities allegedly committed by the Indian Army in the region.
Dar, a shawl weaver, was on his way back home after voting in a special election to replace a Kashmiri representative in the Indian parliament when Indian soldiers stopped him, and proceeded to tie him to the front of a jeep, to deter people from throwing stones at the convoy. Though he was uninjured, media reports said Dar was left "traumatized" by the treatment.
Major Nitin Leetul Gogia, who was in charge of using Dar as a human shield, is currently under investigation. Still, on May 1 the Indian Army awarded him a commendation card for "his sustained distinguished service till now in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu & Kashmir," reported the Indian Express.
The national public outcry in India and protests in Kashmir over the incident come amid a long history of alleged human rights atrocities allegedly committed by the Indian Army in the region. In the summer of 2016, amid escalating violence in the Kashmir valley, the Army was accused of violating international law after using pellet guns against unarmed Kashmiri civilians.
When conflicts endure, the weapons of war know no limits.