This is the post excerpt.
This is the post excerpt.
The truth is that most people who write or comment about Kashmir have never been there. Srinagar is hardly Kashmir. A sprawling, urban mess, Srinagar has greyness written all over it. For a keen Kashmir watcher like me, going to Srinagar doesn’t qualify.
That is what makes Bhaavna Arora so different. She has been to South Kashmir, walked on the roads, smelt the anxiety, the fear, the longing and the expectation of the people. She has sat on the floor of a martyr’s house and cried with his family. From Army officers to taxi drivers, from local policemen to the ordinary Kashmiri, everyone has been part of her journey. This book is about that journey.
Bhaavna called me one fine evening, telling me that she wanted to write a book on Lt. Ummer Fayaz. I was puzzled. Why would someone want to write about a Kashmiri army officer who was murdered in cold blood in Kashmir? But write she did.
UNDAUNTED is not just a book about Lt. Ummer Fayaz. It is a book about the Indian Army. It is a book about the people of Kashmir. It is a book about the love and heartbreak of a family. And it is a book about heroes.
When was it ever easy for a Kashmiri to wear a uniform? Recently, there has been a spate of killings of unarmed Kashmiri army men and policemen. They are seen as legitimate targets; such is the level of radicalisation in the Kashmir Valley. It is in this environment that Ummer Fayaz decided to join the Armed Forces. Initially an Air Force candidate, he settled for the Indian Army after a small medical issue. His parents were so proud. The entire community looked up to him.
Bhaavna writes like she is silently watching young Ummer going to the market with his little sister, celebrating with the family, laughing and crying with them and when calamity strikes, grieving with them. The book is full of incidents about Ummer and others who were either a part of his life or enabled the writing of this book. Everything finds mentions. Nothing is left out. I couldn’t help but smile when Bhaavna writes about her first ride on a Tatra. It made me remember mine.
When young Ummer is returning from school one day, he refuses to be frisked at an Army check post. Things get a little heated and the soldier slaps him and then takes him inside the Army camp. There he meets a kind and gentle officer. The officer speaks to Ummer with respect and explains that there is information about terrorists moving around and that’s why the frisking is required. Ummer agrees to have his schoolbag checked. This incident leaves a lasting impression in young Umar’s mind. He tells the officer “I want to become like you”. While leaving, he sees the officer’s name plate. Ata Hasnain. Umar doesn’t forget and when the time is right, he starts preparing for the National Defence Academy exams.
There is another interesting incident from NDA. During the cross-country run, Ummer and Majid, another cadet, didn’t want to run as they were observing Roza. The officer asked them, “And where in the Holy Quran does it say to abandon your duties while observing Roza?”
So, Ummer and Majid ran. In spite of cramps and dehydration, they ran. They ran with such spirit that both managed to come in the second enclosure, out of a total of six. This speaks volumes about the spirit of Umar.
This book is not just a compilation of facts. It makes you laugh and cry. You feel the cramps in your legs when Ummer runs during Roza. You feel the guilt of Tahzun when she cries, thinking that she could have saved Umar if she had picked up his calls. You want to hold Lt Col Inderjeet Singh’s hand when he shaves off his head, in a typical Hindu mourning ritual, when he hears of Ummer’s death and then asks his wife Rajni to perform all the rituals that are performed when a member of the family dies. Bhaavna has walked with each of these people. As I said before, she has laughed, cried, celebrated and grieved with each one of them, especially Ummer’s family.
While this book, every now and then, touches upon the cauldron that the Kashmir Valley has become, it is also a paean to the DNA of the Indian Army…its ethos, its traditions and its values. Ummer had never offered namaz in a masjid in the NDA, but when his friends and family in Kashmir tell him that the Indian Army is against their religion, Umar requests officers at NDA that all Muslim cadets be allowed to offer Namaz on Fridays. Umar has suddenly not found religion. His loyalty to the Indian Army is such that he goes out of his way to tell people back home that in the Indian Army, there is space for all faiths. His request for Friday namaz is granted. He becomes the Namaz leader in NDA.
In this book, Ummer seems statesman like. He sees a larger role for himself in the context of Kashmir. When his fellow cadets tell him that both Burhan Wani and he were slapped by security forces, but Umar chose to fight for India, unlike Burhan who became a terrorist, Umar realizes that he could shape the life of other Kashmiri young men.
Lt. Ummer Fayaz of 2nd Battalion, The Rajputana Rifles was brutally murdered on 9 May 2017, while he was unarmed and on leave to attend his cousin sister’s marriage. His relationship with the Indian Army continued even after his death. They avenged him on 1 April 2018.
This book is also a plea for hope. Without stating the obvious, it is a cry for Kashmir, a prayer for young Kashmiris to take a deep look at who their heroes should be. It is Kashmir’s young who will decide what of the future of Kashmir will be like.
Thank you Bhaavna, for taking me on this magnificent journey of courage, hope, love, longing and fire.
Walk with Ummer here https://amzn.to/2EuHdbv
Major Gaurav Arya
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#MajorGauravArya #Undaunted #IndianArmy #adgpi
On 14 August 1947, a part of the British Indian Army separated from its mother organisation and became the Pakistan Army. It retained the flavour of its British creator; the parties, the spit and polish, the gin in the afternoon and whiskey in the evening, the ‘hard as hobnailed leather’ ethos and the drill square. Its officers were Pakistani in skin-tone but British in thinking. “Brown Sahibs” would have been an apt description.
We were no different.
The Indian Army has seen a strong and consistent democratic dispensation since independence. Yes, our political leaders have made mistakes. But it is also true that the Indian Army is the better for never having tasted the fruits of unquestioned power.
India ratified its Constitution on 26 November 1949 and gave itself a Constitution on 26 January 1950.
The Pakistan Army saw a political leadership vacuum from the very beginning, something they could take advantage of. While India’s socialist democracy moved towards economic justice, the power center in Pakistan remained the landowner, the redoubtable Wadera. In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the relationship of the ruler and the ruled has always been that of the Chaudharys and Haaris, the landowner and the landless tiller. And the biggest Chaudhary of them all has always been the Pakistan Army.
Pakistan’s first Constitution was approved in 1956 but abrogated in 1958, after a military coup. The 1962 Constitution was suspended in 1969. It was abrogated in 1972. In 1973, Pakistan framed a new Constitution. It was again held in abeyance in 1977, after a coup. This Constitution was restored in 1985.
Each time it was a Pakistan Army General who tore up the Constitution of Pakistan. When it wasn’t a General, it was a civilian who was all too willing to dance to the tune of whoever was the pied piper in Rawalpindi. Governor General Ghulam Mohammad, Major General Iskander Mirza, General Ayub Khan, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, General Zia ul-Haq, General Parvez Musharraf, Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif…not all Pakistani autocrats have worn the uniform.
Gen Ayub Khan midwifed the political career of the greatest of all Pakistani democrats, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. In 1983, another military dictator General Zia-ul Haq appointed a young industrialist to the very important position of Finance Minister of Punjab. That young industrialist was Nawaz Sharif. Before 2013, there was no one more liberal and secular than Imran Khan. He baited the Army and called out the fundamentalists. After losing every election and looking down the path of political oblivion, Imran Khan understood that without the three A’s of Pakistan, he was dust. Allah, Army and America have always been the pillars of Pakistan.
Imran saw that the national mood was against America. So, he embraced Islamic fundamentalism, and suddenly the Pakistan Army was Teflon coated. The elite soon renamed him “Taliban Khan”. In 2018, General Qamar Javed Bajwa manipulated the Pakistan General Elections and Imran Ahmed Khan Niazi became the twenty-second Prime Minister of Pakistan. Incidentally, Imran belongs to the same clan of Mianwali Niazis that gave Pakistan another historical gem, Lt Gen AAK Niazi.
But I digress.
Strategic depth is the Holy Grail that the Pakistan Army has always sought. You need land to fight wars and Pakistan is not more than 400 kms wide, at an average. No nation wants to fight wars on its own land. It is avoidable. So, the Pakistan Army creates “zones of influence”. In Iran, it is the Sunni terror outfits perpetually at war with a Shia state. In Afghanistan, it is the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, amongst many others. In India, it is Kashmir. Earlier, it was Punjab. There are other geographies involved, within India. What I mention here is the tip of the iceberg. There are circles within circles. Pakistan’s attack on India is asymmetric. And it is mind-bogglingly sophisticated.
No one can accuse the Pakistan Army of not having a sense of humor. When the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was overthrown by General Zia ul Haq, the coup was called Operation Fair Play.
Zia irreversibly changed both Pakistan and the Pakistan Army. It was under him that mainstreaming of radical Islamists started. When he appointed various ultra-conservative Ulema to the all-powerful Council of Islamic Ideology, an unknown Sargodha born cleric found a special place in Zia’s heart. General Zia-ul Haq created Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.
This was the time when the boundaries between the Pakistan Military and the self-styled Mujahideen who had fought in the Afghan Jihad, started blurring. Unity, Faith and Discipline, the motto given by Jinnah was dumped. Its place was taken by the freshly minted ‘Iman Taqwa Jihad fi-Sabilillah’. Jihad became the avowed aim of the Pakistan Army. Its soldiers were no longer simply professionals. They became Ghazis, devout Muslims who were at a state of perpetual war with non-Muslims.
Officers and men were graded by how ‘pious’ they were. Outward signs of this piety were namaz, the obligatory beard and frequent references to the Holy Quran. Liquor was banned. Music was declared ‘haram’.
From the day it was born, Pakistan’s journey to being a security state started. This required money. So, agreements were signed with US and later with China. It was easier for US to deal with Pakistan, than with India, notwithstanding India’s socialist leaning towards the USSR. India was a messy democracy and work in progress. In Pakistan, US had always dealt with one man, the Army Chief. It was always about convenience. Nothing has changed. Pakistan Army has always had serious mercenary tendencies. That too has not changed.
Soon, the ISI had its own political wing, used for keeping tabs on politicians. They blackmailed, harassed and pressurized. They created and destroyed governments. They were instrumental in assassinations and disappearances of political rivals. They say that the ISI has closed down its political wing. But then, they say a lot of things.
The Pakistan Army was the self-proclaimed savior of the nation. But to be the savior, an enemy was needed. So, the Pakistani population was told how India had never accepted partition and how the Constitution of India did not acknowledge the existence of Pakistan. India, five times the size, would gobble up Pakistan. The Hindu was to be reviled and looked upon with suspicion. Incidentally, Pakistan’s school textbooks have some of the most hateful literature you can find in any school curriculum in the world. The hate for India was thus institutionalized.
Four wars were fought, three over Kashmir. Countless acts of terror later, Pakistan is no closer to getting Kashmir than it is to speaking a coherent sentence in front of a global audience. But once you are the self-appointed Fortress of Islam and the only ‘Muslim nuclear power’, you have an inflated sense of importance.
Today, the business interests of the Pak military are worth over USD 100 billion. Fauji Foundation, Shaheen Foundation, Baharia Foundation, Army Welfare Trust and the Defence Housing Authorities own about fifty different businesses. From cement to real estate, from custard to diapers, the Pakistan Army manufactures every consumable you can think of.
Pakistan Army breeds terrorists because they are cheaper to maintain and arm, than a regular army. It also breeds them because of the huge advantage of plausible deniability. And who can argue with the fact that Pakistani Generals are far better at making money than fighting wars? Pakistan has outsourced its wars with India to the likes of Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar.
Post Pulwama, a few things have changed irreversibly. One, Pakistan has upped the ante by introducing suicide bombing to Kashmir. Two, India’s response by launching air strikes into Pakistani territory not just in PoK but also Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has raised the bar for anti-terror response. This message that the air strikes gave was not what politicians thought it was. They were busy counting bodies. Bodies are not important because to get bodies, we could have used MBRLs or medium artillery. We could have done it from the safety of our country. The simple act of launching fighter jets into enemy territory is an incredible statement.
It is not about Kashmir. Pakistan will remain in a state of perpetual war with India, until we are ‘cut to size’. Imagine how we must look to an insecure nation; five times the size, huge geographical area, an economy that has left Pakistan in the dust, a military that dwarfs its own and the blue passport that is respected worldwide. We are everything that Pakistan wanted to be, but never could. Jealousy breeds hatred.
After 1989, Pakistan convinced itself that it was the sole reason for the defeat of USSR in the Afghan War. It forgot that it was just a paid middleman between the CIA and the Afghan Mujahideen. Lt Gen Hamid Gul was the man who fanned this mad fantasy of ill equipped Holy warriors who won on the strength of their faith alone. All this is helium, off course. It was massive CIA slush funds and the infusion of weapons, including the redoubtable stingers that caused Soviet fatalities. All that welded with the Afghan warrior spirit was a little too much for the Red Army.
The more Hamid Gul lied, the more this fantasy took firm hold. If Pakistan could defeat the USSR, India would be a cakewalk. It would fall in two or three years, at the most. With this plan firmly in place, the Kashmir Jihad was launched in 1989. Flush with initial success, the ISI could almost smell the apples in Kashmir. Then, something happened that wrecked their insane plans of conquest. They ran into the Indian Army.
A Kargil and hundreds of terror attacks later, Pakistan has not gained an inch of land in Kashmir. And I will say it again and again; much as Pakistan may like to weave this wobbly narrative around Kashmir, this battle has little to do with the Valley. But one thing Pakistan Army has done, with some degree of brilliance. It has convinced a vast majority of its population that there are good and bad terrorists. And, terrorism is a legitimate tool when the enemy is India.
1947-48, 1965, 1971, 1993, 1999, 26/11, Punjab, Kashmir, Parliament attacks, and Akshardham temple attacks…I can go on and on. 15,000 Indian deaths later, we are no closer to peace, than we were when we gained independence.
Imagine a weird, hypothetical scenario, never possible in a million years. But humor me. Let us say we give Kashmir to Pakistan. Only the extremely naïve, in moments of absolute lack of lucidity, will believe that this will buy peace. It will not.
A full-fledged conventional war with Pakistan will have consequences that are avoidable. There are other ways to punish Pakistan, militarily. What India lacks is a coherent and consistent policy of dealing with a rogue neighbor. It is important that we don’t lose the momentum gained by the Balakot air strikes. We must keep our foot on the accelerator. The Pakistan Army must be in a constant state of pressure. It cannot strengthen both its Eastern and Western fronts. It is this dilemma for Pakistan that we must always seek.
The Pakistan Army is the Pakistani State. Of this I am convinced. It will have its ups and downs, its ebbs and flows. But it is also true that since 1947, it has defined the idea of Pakistan. It is the self-proclaimed guardian of Pakistan’s ideological frontiers.
There can never be peace with Pakistan unless Pakistan becomes a democracy in the truest sense. For that, the Pakistan Army will have to cease to be the center of gravity of that nation.
Greek legend speaks of a female monster called Medusa, whose stare would turn men into stone and who had snakes in place of hair. This terrifying being destroyed everything in her path. The only way to end her terror was to behead her. Perseus, the Greek warrior, did this. By this act of beheading Medusa, he brought peace to Sarpedon.
It is time to cut off the head of Medusa.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#MajorGauravArya #Medusa #adgpi #IndianArmy
Today, we celebrate twenty-five years of our passing out through the hallowed portals of the Officers Training Academy, Madras. Yes, all of us are that old. It is not the twenty-five years, mind you, that makes us old, but the knowledge that an entire generation has grown up calling the city Chennai.
Those were the days without social media and mobile phones. It was just we, and the elements. No one will ever accuse Madras of being kind. Maybe, Chennai is different. We don’t know. But OTA, Madras was rough. We were young then, more willing and able to tolerate pain, heat and hunger. If we were not willing, someone ensured that we were. The Indian Army was anything but gentle.
We were supposed to complete the same training in eleven months that IMA cadets did in eighteen. The pace was blistering, the environment unforgiving. We did not become brothers because we wore the same uniform. It was deeper than that. In the shadow of flowing blood, blistered feet, calloused hands, rivers of sweat and broken egos, a different kind of brotherhood was born. It is that shared experience of being “broken and made” that we celebrate here, today.
When we entered the academy in May 1993, most of us had stars in our eyes. It was a new adventure, a new life and a new beginning. And then, there was this summons from “Anna”. We were made to sit on what was called the ‘throne’. Anna, lacking both the skills of a salon barber and the basics of customer service, attacked our hair. They say Anna was almost blind. Who knew these things? He cut our hair in lesser time than it takes to flip a burger. Our precious locks gone, we all looked alike. Ego and vanity were hit by a speeding locomotive. OTA – 1, GCs – 0.
A few days later, it started feeling like a bipolar horror movie in which the characters jump out of the screen and imitate real life. It was our first introduction to rivulets of sweat, constant and unnatural, as if we were together standing under this massive salt-water shower.
The company commanders, platoon commanders, drill instructors and the entire DS fraternity did their best to break us. That was their job. SS 57 and WSES 3 did not break. That was our determination. Our seniors were…well, seniors. Every sentence started with tracing the antecedents of our female relatives. It was a constant din, and it continued, irrespective of the rising and setting of the sun. They generously added fuel to the fire; PT Before PT, PT after PT, drill, assault course, tactics, WT, games and perhaps the craziest institution of OTA, the shave parade.
We reached into the deepest recesses of our will to survive, for an ounce of spirit; even if it was for lending a helping hand to those who were not strong enough. OTA taught us that individual glory was transient and that the team was everything. We endured collective punishment, meant solely to break us. Every fiber of our being was stretched, and when it reached breaking point, in the brotherhood we found the emotional courage to dare ‘them’ to stretch our fiber a little more.
After every such pain filled journey we would stand together, looking like a train wreck, only to answer a question that has now become something of a national obsession.
“How’s the josh?” a senior would shout
“High Sir!!!,” we would roar back.
This was never a punch line. It was simply an affirmation that what had not killed us, had made us stronger.
Days rolled into weeks and weeks morphed into months. Camp Nomad, Shatrujeet and a hundred other obstacles were thrown our way. Somewhere along the way, the Officers Training Academy taught us to laugh; laugh when we took off our boots after a race back and our skin came off with our socks…laugh when we wrung sweat out of our socks and found it strange that the sweat had a tinge of red.
The trade-off with OTA was simple. We shed our blood, sweat and perhaps a few tears of pain. In return, we became officers in the Indian Army.
It was not all gloom and doom. We drank piss-warm beer in near total darkness, fully aware that getting caught would land us in a world of trouble. Even today, we swear that the best butter chicken we ever ate was smuggled from ‘Sagar’. Those who did not know, called it Hotel Sagar. But the suffix somehow diluted the intimacy. There was certain romance to eating those colour-loaded chicken shreds. It was an affirmation of us being human. The longing, the wait, the aroma and the taste; it all coalesced into a celebration of having survived one more day at OTA. Those who passed DST and PPT, strutted around with the lanyard, telling us lesser mortals of the wonders that were there for the taking outside the gates of the academy. So, we the unfortunate ones, dug our heels a little deeper and marched a little straighter, all in the hope that next time, the drill Gods would smile upon us. The main drill deity was Major Lalit Rai, Adjutant of OTA. He rode on this white charger called Tarzan. What were the odds that we could impress Tarzan, it not Major Lalit Rai? Both rider and horse were not given to smiling.
There were those amongst us who were masters of getting Attn C. Even one day’s sanctioned medical leave was heaven. And then there were those who had this unique proclivity of running into the speeding locomotive that was discipline at OTA. We believed that most infringements we were punished for were imagined, or at best miniscule. After all, who would care if you had one nail less on your ammunition boots? But care they did. They checked for 13 nails like a rider checks the horseshoe. A single nail less, and hell visited our doorstep. Four buttons showing above the belt, instead of three? Start rolling.
The days were wizzing past as soon we were counting DLTGH or Days Left To Go Home. In the nerve wracking and sinew crushing environment that was OTA, this small daily ritual gave us hope. Soon, tests completed, we were off in a train, headed home. Those who had great distances to travel, spent time sleeping. Some just looked out of the window, mentally grappling with civilian life. Yes, we had changed that much. As is true with all that happens at OTA, our leave evaporated in double quick time. We remembered sleeping, eating and repeating this for the two weeks we were home. We met our friends. They looked at us curiously. We had changed for ever.
With heavy hearts we prepared ourselves to go back to the furnace that was OTA. It was a long train ride back. But there was a tinge of happiness too. We were now seniors. If not life and death, we now at least had the power of spoiling some poor bugger’s peace of mind. As we prepared to enter our barracks, we saw something that we couldn’t believe. Lady Cadets. If pigs could fly and if monkeys could do maths, we too could be lucky. OTA suddenly started looking a little better. We started smiling a little. It was tough but it was a start.
Would they speak to us? Would we get the chance to interact with them? All our doubts were laid to rest a week later. They were rolling in the same mud, with us. Then it struck us. Gender did not matter. They were cadets and the instructors would be damned if they went easy on them.
And then there were the little crushes we had. It was inevitable, with young men and women training in proximity. Except for the one case, I don’t think it amounted to much. There was no time. OTA was an action movie on fast forward. If you looked too long at a lady cadet and their DS found out, you were a skewered kebab. We don’t know if the Lady Cadets looked at us. We wouldn’t know since all of us GC’s looked alike. She could be looking at me one day and the other guy the next day, without knowing the difference. Skinny, crew cut hair, badly tanned, red eyes and always marching in a group; there was not much to choose from, anyway.
Before we knew it, much of second term has passed by and we were staring at our Passing Out Parade. The mind numbing routine of drill set in. Day in and day out, we perfected our marching.
Soon, Judgment Day was upon us. We would be informed which arm or service we had been commissioned into. We marched into the hall, with the Adjutant glaring at us, flanked by a few other officers. That day many hearts broke. And, many a champagne bottle popped. The breaking hearts were real, the champagne bottles, imagined. However, the emotions at both ends were genuine.
“What did you get?” someone asked.
“Casualty”, someone answered, eyes downcast.
It was, in many cases, like an arranged marriage. We fell in love with our units after joining, even if we hadn’t opted for them.
And then came 5th March 1994. We had parents, friends and sundry sweethearts looking at us proudly. As we slow-marched to Auld Lang Syne, we crossed the “Antim Path”. At that moment, we became officers in the Indian Army. The pipping took place, followed by that obligatory throwing of our peak caps into the air. The oath was administered. The feeling was sinking deep that we were about to leave OTA. We were not teary eyed. We were jubilant that we had managed to survive, what by many counts is, the toughest officers training course in the world.
The Gentlemen Cadets are from SS 57. In housie, when the number 57 is called out, it connects to the Revolt of 1857. Hence, we call ourselves ‘Gadars’. The Lady Cadets were from Naushera Company. Their chant was “Shera, Shera, Naushera”. So, they call themselves Shernis.
So, here we meet again to celebrate our Silver Jubilee. We are more recognizable now, with our paunches and bald patches. We have had our highs and lows. We meet to relive the old days, when we were just numbers. We meet to water the plant of camaraderie and brotherhood. And…we meet to share our joys and sorrows. That is what brotherhood is all about. That is what OTA taught us.
Today, we again remember our brothers who are no longer with us. Shanmugham, Chhetri and Masurkar, we will honour your memory by celebrating you. We will not mourn. We are soldiers. We wish you were here. The celebrations would have been louder and more boisterous. They would have been complete. We raise a toast to you. We know you are there in Valhalla, drinking, raising hell and telling jokes that only soldiers can understand. We miss you.
Friends, all said and done, we are not in Chennai. In our hearts, we are still in Madras; with all its magic, tears and joys.
May God bless our alma mater, the Officers Training Academy. May it continue to shine as a becon of hope for all those who wish to Serve With Honour.
May God bless us all. Jai Hind.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
SS 57, Jessami Company, Officers Training Academy
Madras (And it will never be Chennai)
Whenever there is disillusionment with corruption, inefficiency or general chaos, a few bright bulbs write to me with that eternal blueberry, “Why can’t the Indian Army take over? We need martial law in India”. I have been hearing this ever since I left the army in 1999.
This is only said out of a sense of deep frustration. There are hardly any takers for a national level PT fall-in at 0545 hrs.
I will try and explain “why” as simply as I can.
For starters, it is treason. The Parliament represents the will of the people. To overthrow a democratically elected government, however bad, is not the job of the army. The army defends the nation and the people. It serves the nation. A situation where the nation serves the army is not only unimaginable but also reprehensible. This has never, ever been discussed in the army. Not formally, not informally, not over a few drinks. I repeat this is treason.
On the night intervening 14th and 15th August 1947, the British Indian Army was divided into the Indian Army and the Pakistan Army. At that moment, both armies were exactly the same in ethos, values, weapons, training, equipment and culture. There was absolutely no difference.
The trajectories that both these armies took post partition, is worthy of deep contemplation. It is said that while India has an army, the Pakistan Army has a country. That is what happens when you involve armies in politics. India becomes Pakistan.
The Members of Parliament are there in Parliament because we, the voters, put them there. Sometimes, if the Parliament looks like a circus to you, do remember that modern democracy is not very old. The earliest luminaries thrown up by this system were Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. The system is still ‘work in progress’ in India. It has its faults but it is still the best system that there is.
The Indian Army is trained to fight. It is not trained to govern and rule. The motto of the Officers Training Academy is “Serve With Honour”. That is the army’s raison d’etre; to serve. In this service there is honour, glory and integrity. Remember, only those who serve India can die for India.
When we decide to vote on the basis of caste, religion and/or by accepting cash and gifts, we lose the moral right to object to corruption and inefficiency. If we want a clean system, let us first stop having double standards of our own. For some time initially, truth and integrity will hurt. It will be like injecting an alien chemical into the body. The body will react violently. But soon it will get used to it.
Yes, the Indian Army does fantastic work. It is great at fighting and winning wars, killing terrorists, defending India and helping civil authorities in times of natural calamities. It is also great at pulling out toddlers from bore wells, building railway bridges, controlling riots and cleaning lakes. But I beseech you; don’t applaud the army when it pulls out toddlers from bore wells, cleans lakes and builds railway bridges. Rather, step up and ask the system as to why is it that the Indian Army that has to step in for everything in this country. Is the system so rotten? Using the army to clean lakes is like cutting vegetables with a Katana. It defies all logic simply because it plays havoc with India’s finest institution.
Soldiers don’t have too many special skills outside of war fighting. But what they bring to the table is integrity, hard work and monk like commitment. That’s what gets the job done and that’s all that is needed. There is no secret sauce.
I could have given you many other practical reasons why the Indian Army will never take over. I could have said that this only happens in small countries, and that India is too large for the army to take over. I could have spoken about international pressure, governance structures, logistics and a thousand such things. I did not. You need to see this through the eyes of the soldier. To him, the Constitution is sacred. We have all, without exception, sworn an oath to uphold the Constitution of India. And soldiers do not defile what they consider sacred. No decent human being does.
As citizens, we must hold institutions accountable. That is the essence of democracy. Stop thinking that to question is simply your right. It is far more than that. It is your duty. Do your duty and everything will work like it is supposed to. Then there will be no need to call the Indian Army when a lake in Bangalore is dirty.
This is one war that the Indian Army will not fight for us. This is one war we must fight on our own. And our first attack must be on our own apathy.
The generals in South Block would approve.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#MajorGauravArya #MirrorImage #adgpi
When I left the Indian Army in 1999, all I had earned, after a near-death fall, was a serious breathing problem. Nothing else. At least that is what the world told me. I had no higher qualification like an MBA, no prospects, no knowledge of the outside world and no idea what I was doing out on the road. I had no family member in the corporate sector. I found out the hard way.
I was a newly minted veteran. Apparently, all I was good for was a security job, and if I was good, really good, somewhere along the way, I could hope to become an Administration Manager. So, I decided that this was what I wanted to become in my civilian life, an Admin Manager.
There were many like me who didn’t know any better. They too struggled. The civilian environment was scary. My Unit 17 Kumaon is what faujis would call a “Dastoori Paltan”. We are an OG unit in the most traditional translation possible. And we are 100% pure Kumaoni, which means that while officers can be from any part of the country, the troops must be from Kumaon.
Apart from the hard grind of military training and tactics, how to eat, dress and converse was an important part of my upbringing in the Paltan. We were taught to open doors, pull chairs and be extremely courteous when in the presence of ladies. To use foul language within a mile of a lady was unthinkable. My first Commanding Officer Col. K Pathak laid a lot of emphasis on what the army calls “An officer and a gentleman”. My immediate seniors, Lt. RK Anuj (now Colonel) and Capt. Vijay Singh Yadav (now Brigadier) drilled this into me. They burned it into my heart, soul and subconscious. That’s what 17 Kumaon was. That was what I became.
Apparently, I was a bit of a ‘curiosity’ in the earlier companies that I worked in. Slowly, as time passed, I learned to say 5 pm in place of 1700 hrs. “Straight ahead” was far more acceptable than “your 12’o Clock”. I stopped standing when female employees entered the room. I tried my best to become a ‘civilian’, to merge into the surroundings. For sometime, I managed to hoodwink some people. It was a daily chore.
I remember being part of a project in Wipro, Gurgaon in 2007 in which we created a laboratory for Lockheed Martin. This was on the fourth floor of our building. They wanted to sell F-16 fighter jets to IAF. They even put in 2 flight simulators there. I remember meeting the Lockheed Martin engineers and executives. Most of them were from US Air Force or US Marines Corps Aviation. Those days I used to wonder when India would have a private defence industry where soldiers would be part of senior management, doing what we were experts in, rather than security and administration. Maybe that day is not far.
Civilians think that we are experts in Security, Administration and HR. In reality, the Indian Army does not have an HR department, security is radically different from what you see in corporates, and administration is, well, merged into the system. We know as much about hardcore HR as you know about counter-terror operations in Kashmir.
Actually, what we have is attitude. We are willing to learn, ground up. A soldier can do anything. There will be a day when we will have private manufacturers in India making anti-aircraft missiles, fighter jets, automatic rifles, tanks, ammunition, missiles and a plethora of equipment for domestic consumption and export. That is the day, when soldiers will be CEOs and on the board of these companies. That is the day when we will sit down with business plans, and not just battle plans. We still do, but that is far from the smell of cordite.
We were not made for taking corrective measures on ‘employee satisfaction’. We were made to operate weapons of war. For us, Make In India is not just about national self-sufficiency. It is also about finding our true calling.
Between leaving the army and joining the media, there was a gap of 17 years (1999-2017), which I spent in the corporate sector. I was the CEO of a limited company and then, President of an MNC. There was money and the obligatory corner office, but I was a salt-water shark in sweet water. I spoke corporate jargon. Balance sheets, cash flows and EBIDTA were my tools of trade. In spite of all the trappings of what one calls ‘success’, there was a great discomfort within me.
When in 2017, Arnab called me with the proposal to be part of a TV series revolving around soldiers; it was like a parachute opening after an eternity of free fall.
I am now Consulting Editor – Strategic Affairs for Republic TV. Patriot takes me to the length and breadth of the country. I meet soldiers every week. This is what gives me happiness. This is what I was made for. So, I travel to military cantonments and installations around India. I sit with soldiers and talk. They share their stories with me because I am one of them. That bond is unbreakable, renewed each week in a new place with a new group of soldiers.
As I drive into an Army camp in Kashmir, a young Major smiles and shakes my hand.
“Welcome home, Sir”, he says.
Home. That word has certain warmth to it, certain belongingness. Home is love. Home is comfort. Home is safety.
“Where do you stay?” the young Major asks me.
“C/o 56 APO”, I tell him.
He laughs, realisation dawning upon him. We walk towards the small room that will be my home for the next 7 days. We sip tea and talk about the army. What else is there to talk about? He marvels at my vintage. The very fact that we used to fire a 106 mm RCL from a Jonga cracks him up. Another young Major, a company commander, walks in to say hello. We talk about how the army was during my time. Soon others join in. Its snowing outside but the room is warm. There is brotherhood here.
I am in the Indian Army. I have come back home.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#MajorGauravArya #Home #adgpi
Disclaimer: When I left the army, resettlement opportunities were few. Things are different now. Officers do resettlement courses in IIM and other institutions of repute. The old image of a fauji as a security officer is no longer the norm. We are in marketing, sales, wealth management, banking and manufacturing. We are TV anchors, actors, businessmen, politicians, bureaucrats and policemen. One day when private weapons manufacturing picks up in India, many of us would have found our true calling once more. That’s because while we can do anything, we are essentially soldiers.
For years, media has been telling us that there are 150-200 terrorists in Kashmir. Every year the security forces kill 150-200 terrorists. Next year, again we have a similar number joining ranks; the throughput in the system remains the same.
We are killing terrorists, not terrorism.
I recently spent time with the Commanding Officer of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, in South Kashmir. He is that typical breed of young infantry COs of the Indian Army; aggressive, decisive and wise beyond their years. He said something to me that will stay with me for a long time.
“I am responsible not just to the men under my command, but also to their families. Death of even one of my men is simply not acceptable to me, but I understand that defending the nation comes at a cost. So, I drive my men and myself to train in the freezing cold, day in and day out, without respite, for those 5 seconds of reckoning. When they come face to face with the enemies of the nation, they must win. In this game, there is no silver medal; its either gold, or death”.
As I travel through the breadth of South Kashmir, the hotbed of separatism and terror, I encounter a recurring sight; young Kashmiri men walking with their heads bowed, staring at a smartphone. Are they any different form young men around the world? Not really, except the content that most of them consume. Call it pure, unadulterated poison.
The Kashmir Valley is being radicalised at a furious pace. There are more than five hundred madrasas in Anantnag alone, unmonitored and free to decide what they will teach to the impressionable young. Thousands of such madrasas dot the landscape across Kashmir. In many such schools of religious learning, the teachers are no longer Kashmiris. They are from Deoband and they owe fealty to Jamaat-i-Islami. In these madrasas, the glory of Jihad is taught to children as young as five years old.
Smartphones in Kashmir have content that is shocking, and we have no strategy to counter it. If we say we do, we are lying. WhatsApp groups are used not just to gather stone pelters at the site of an encounter, but also to warn terrorists of movement of security forces. There are young men always close by, walking and watching. If they see an army convoy leaving the gates of an army camp, the message is broadcast immediately – number of vehicles, direction of movement and estimated number of troops.
Fake Twitter handles and Facebook pages are created by the thousands, backed by Pakistan’s ISI. Blogs, Vlogs, music, videos, and literature…it is an entire industry set up to poison the Kashmiri mind, and it is high-volume, high-quality, professional content. ISPR (Inter Services Public Relations), the PR wing of the Pakistani Armed Forces is the mother of this e-Jihad. And the poisonous content they create lands up on the smartphone of the young of Kashmir. Mass scale brainwashing is happening right under our noses.
When I was posted in Jammu & Kashmir, encounters with foreign terrorists were common. Afghans, Sudanese and Pakistanis were some nationalities that came to India to seek heaven. They raped Kashmiri women, killed with impunity and roamed the streets with abandon. The Indian Army responded by setting up anti-infiltration grids. Over a period of time, the deluge of foreign terrorists became a trickle. An odd Pakistani still manages to sneak in, but the majority of terrorists in Kashmir are locals.
Pakistan has ensured that it no longer need export terror to India. Pakistan radicalizes the young of Kashmir in the name of jihad. These young men join the ranks of terror organizations. Just so that they don’t have second thoughts, their pictures are taken with weapons and circulated on social media. Once security forces get these pictures, these men are marked. Once they die in an encounter with security forces, huge funerals are organized. These funerals are actually recruitment rallies. Terror has been outsourced to the victim of terror.
This entire environment ensures that there is always a steady stream of terrorists in Kashmir, home grown and able to melt into their surroundings. This also gives Pakistan plausible deniability. They can hence rightfully claim that the “freedom struggle” in Kashmir is indigenous.
As I said, the throughput in the system remains the same. Checkmate.
Information Warfare (IW) must be recognised as a weapon of war. It is. Yet, it is not. IW is a halfhearted push, even in the army. We don’t seem to realise that the enemy is in the mind, not on the ground. Killing terrorists will not solve the problem. Getting all mushy with the locals will not solve the problem, either.
Social media is the cause of the majority of problems we are facing in Kashmir. We should have been able to counter it long back. We didn’t. Here is a roadmap that will tell anyone in position of authority and willing to listen, how this can be done.
What is urgently required is a fully secure building in NCR Delhi, staffed by army officers at the top echelons. Lets call this building, the BLUE BOX. The top ‘management’ of this Blue Box must be wafer thin. The rest of the team, thousands of them, will be civilians, with the mean age not exceeding 25 years. We need content writers, videographers, special effects experts, video editors, hackers, social media experts, research scholars, experts in Islamic theology, linguists, songwriters and musicians, all under the same roof. In that building, we need a recording studio, server rooms, IT hardware, software, high speed Internet and all equipment related to content creation and social media. We need Kashmiri Muslim men and women working for us. Yes, there are thousands of them who put their lives on the line each day to tell India’s story. We must mobilise them.
All these professionals should be paid well, and made to sign NDAs. Thousands of Twitter handles, Facebook profiles, Instagram accounts, blogs, Vlogs, websites and WhatsApp groups need to be created, a veritable firestorm of pro-India content.
There must be action at multiple levels. Creation of content to counter malicious propaganda, creation of content to push our own narrative and ‘managing’ local Kashmiri media are the three immediate challenges.
IW must percolate down to the Rashtriya Rifles Sector level. It is important for the Sector Commanders to have their own IW team of professionals (civilians included), which is directly plugged into IW of Victor Force and Kilo Force. These must, in turn, be plugged into the IW cells of XV Corps, Northern Command and ADGPI. It is also essential to post a qualified IW officer at the RR battalion level. He may not generate IW content directly, but most information will pass through him. Information Warfare is both top down and bottom up. A simple top down approach can be detrimental because when it comes to social media use, both information and content are mostly generated at the ground level.
The need of the hour is to go on a massive media and social media offensive. It is important to flood Kashmir with a counter narrative.
RR Battalion and Sector Commanders must have the independence to deal with local and national media. The reasons are valid. It is not difficult to imagine a Tamil journalist living and reporting from New Delhi, or a Bengali reporting from Gujarat. The only limiting factor is language. Kashmir’s story is different. You have to be a Kashmiri to be able to stay in and report from the Valley. I am sure there is the possibility of a rare exception, but I am not aware of any. Indian journalists from outside the Kashmir Valley are just too afraid of being harmed or even killed, if they live and report from Srinagar. That fear is not without reason. Here, I speak about the national media, both print and electronic.
The local Kashmiri media is another kettle of fish. Hiding behind the façade of freedom of expression, it deals in rumours, insinuation and lies. While Indian media is known to be a little elastic with the truth, local Kashmiri media often behaves like the propaganda wing of the Hurriyat. I wouldn’t be surprised if individual reporters are on Pakistan’s payroll. Look at it from the ISI’s perspective. It makes perfect sense.
Private Kashmiri TV channels are an urgent requirement. DD Kashir is a dead duck. Private FM Channels should become a part of Kashmiri life. Both audio and video content must be beamed live across the Valley. Much of it must be web-based. Newspapers in Kashmiri and Urdu should be launched that tell our story. Distribute them free of cost, if we must. And all this should be plugged in to the Blue Box.
We simply have to find a way to communicate with Kashmiris through TV, print, radio, web and social media. There is no other road.
Massive infusion of funds is needed in the education system in Kashmir. Madrasas funded by Jamaat-i-Islami must be shut down and replaced with schools with a sensible, modern curriculum. Lets not get all touchy feely about this. The cost of our ‘liberal’ outlook is borne by soldiers.
This madness, which pervades Kashmir, is a mental illness. This madness will not go away, unless we attack its foundation. The foundation is in the mind.
We have been a careless nation. We have allowed this madness to spread in Kashmir, madness seemingly without end. But end, it must. The Blue Box is no longer a luxury. It is a question of survival.
Ministries and departments cannot run the Blue Box. It cannot be run by intelligence agencies. They simply don’t have the capability or the understanding. Teenagers and young adults, mavericks who don’t follow the rules, must run the Blue Box. And the army must supervise this operation.
It is time to call in the Indian Army once more. The only difference will be that this time, the laptop will replace the AK 47. It calls for a mindset change, a revolution in the army’s way of thinking. But history is witness that there is no student more willing than the Indian Army. Why involve the army, some would ask. Well, the Indian Army is the only institution that has men on ground and can get the job done. No excuses, no stories, no delays.
The Blue Box is what the Indian Army urgently needs in Kashmir. It has enough weapons, bulletproof jackets and helmets. There is no dearth of such equipment. But you cannot kill an idea, however poisonous, with an AK 47. Only an idea can kill an idea.
If we create the Blue Box, over time the throughput in the system will cease to exist. And Pakistan will face it biggest defeat since 1971.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17th Battalion, The Kumaon Regiment
#TheOtherWar #adgpi #MajorGauravArya
Thousands of INA soldiers died fighting and many perished in death camps. By marching to certain death, they forever sanctified Netaji’s call to war “Give me blood and I shall give you freedom”.
There is a certain romance to what Bose did. A man rages against injustice and leads an army of volunteers against one of the greatest empires on earth.
There were many who were responsible for India’s freedom, but Bose was amongst the movement’s brightest stars. And history bears witness that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a man of his word.
We gave him blood. He gave us freedom.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
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