PATRIOT 

The soldier has been mauled, humiliated, insulted, his integrity questioned and his every move analyzed threadbare. Never was there so much scrutiny of those who just wanted to do their duty and live a life of honour.

Soldiers demand nothing. They sleep in the cold. Meals are skipped because they are too busy trying to save others. The last remembered smell is of gunpowder and gun oil. They carry their family in their wallets. They kill. They die. Some say they were “martyred”. Some don’t bother; “killed” is good enough for both soldier and terrorist.

And the soldier is not allowed to speak. He, who has the most to say because of what he lives through each moment, is not allowed to tell the world what he feels. How does it feel when his skin burns at plus 50 degrees centigrade? What does he go through when his limbs catch frostbite and the only way to save him is to amputate that limb? How heavy is the dead body of his martyr brother? What are his loves, longings, victories and defeats? When his body is broken from extreme exhaustion and blood loss, where does he summon that last ounce of energy to walk up to his buddy who is in ICU?

What is the DNA of a soldier?

So we went across the country and spoke to soldiers. They opened up to me because I too, was a soldier once. The brotherhood always endures. The same questions were asked, visit after visit – which course, which regiment, which unit? We were with 17 Kumaon in Naushera (J&K) in the same Brigade in 1998…you were OC Charlie Company. Sir, you are from Jessami-13 OTA, SS 57, right? I was in Kohima, SS 74.

The same soldier talk.

I remember sitting and sharing a drink with this tough young officer from the Para Regiment, who had seen countless operations and bloodshed. He spoke to me (off camera) about firefights. He was telling me about an operation in Kashmir in which a few of his brother officers were involved. He mentioned a particularly funny incident about an officer climbing a rock-face in pitch darkness and then coming face to face with two terrorists. The operation was successful. Later, I asked him about that officer. Suddenly, for a fraction of a second, this big, tough paratrooper crumbled in front of my eyes. And then he recovered his composure as suddenly as he had lost it. “Shaheed”, he said stoically, pretending as if the loss was in the past. But I had seen the truth.

Then there was this CRPF jawan I met in Srinagar who was narrating a story about how his brothers were martyred in ant-Naxal operations in Sukma. He told me how he carried the dead body of his friend for twelve kilometers so that he could give him the final gift; a farewell worthy of a soldier. He too remembered. He remembered it clearly.

No loss is ever in the past. Soldiers have long memories. Very long memories.

“My father was in the Indian Army”, said Arnab on 15 March this year.

I nodded, understanding the emotion. Olive Green changes your DNA forever.

“We must pay homage to the Indian soldier, sailor and airman, Major. Not the equipment, not the weapons but the human being who wears that uniform. The soldier who watches over us while we sleep”, he said. “Will you do it?” Arnab asked.

“I am new to media. Speaking at a panel discussion and creating a TV series are two different things. To speak for the soldier is a sacred trust. I don’t want to fail”, I said.

“You won’t fail. Please do exactly what you do on TV debates. Speak from the heart and be blunt. Just speak soldier to soldier,” Arnab said. 

I went home and climbed down to the dingy basement looking for old records and photos from my army days. I found them. They made me smile and laugh and cry.

Over a period of a month, the idea of a TV series took shape.

We mulled over names. What would a TV series on the soldier be called? It was not a work of fiction. It was about a veteran going across India, meeting his brothers. Many names crossed our minds. In the end, we settled for a name that was blunt, to the point and from the heart. Just like my TV debates.

So, we called it PATRIOT.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

17 Kumaon Regiment

#MajorGauravArya #adgpi #Patriot #IndianArmy
Saturday 27 May, 7:30 pm @Republic TV.

ONLY THE BRAVE

Gen. Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army had predicted a violent summer, two months back. It is now unfolding before our very eyes. Yes, we had wished that the prediction would prove untrue, but then the general speaks with decades of experience. He also has on-demand access to technology and intelligence that most of us cannot even begin to imagine. A snap of the fingers and satellites begin to triangulate in deep space. A friendly phone call to Naval HQ, and a nuclear submarine starts transmitting data to his encrypted smartphone, via secure servers. A request to Air HQ sees AWACS (Airborne Warning & Control Systems) peek hundreds of kms inside Pakistan or China.

He controls highly trained Special Forces that can wreck absolute havoc deep inside Pakistan, even before that nation can wake up to morning tea. This I can personally vouch for, if that counts for anything. Para SF can do to Pakistan what Hanuman Ji did to Lanka when Ravana set his tail on fire.
For some mysterious reason this fearsome Katana remains in the scabbard; never used, but always alluded to. We are importing the latest weapon systems and missiles from Israel. Perhaps, we could ask them to send a little political will the next time.

It is also true that we find ourselves in this predicament with no one else to blame. It is we who are guilty of inaction, and when forced to act, of dubious action. We, a nation of 1.25 billion people, cannot find the resolve to handle a bunch of stone pelters. And we petition the world that we be invited to sit at the high table of the United Nations Security Council. We have allowed the infamous Red Corridor to thrive under our collective noses. We have permitted the Hurriyat to cock a snook at us, funding them lavishly for that one elusive day when they may proclaim to the world at large, that India is the better option for Kashmiris.

Till that day, we continue to pay a steep price. Soldiers are martyred, beheaded and humiliated. An entire region descends into Wahhabi-fuelled chaos. Children as young as five years of age are radicalized. Fighters loyal to ISIS start entering Kashmir. Army camps are attacked and soldiers killed in their sleep. An officer is kidnapped and murdered.

Our response? Shut off Internet services in the Valley. This can be one in a series of steps, but if this is your main weapon, you are clearly out of ideas. What’s the plan? That once you deny the terrorists their daily fix of social media, they will surrender in droves?

We are a weak state, and both Pakistan and China know this. Pakistan plays merry hell in Kashmir with a wink-and-nudge from China, and we do a spectacular nothing.

Especially heartbreaking is how some Indians, sometimes react on social media. I have been asked why the Indian Army is making such a fuss about the martyrdom of Lt. Umar Fayaz. Is it because he was a Muslim? Why did the Army not conduct candle light vigils when other soldiers were martyred? These questions speak of a petty mind, a mind devoid of knowledge, experience and common sense. I did not want to dignify such questions by answering them; but keep quiet and those who are devoid of common sense and heart start assuming they are right. They must be countered.
 
The Indian Army does not organize candlelight vigils or marches. It has never organized a single such event in over 200 years of its history, and shows no inclination towards organizing such an event in the near future. The Indian Army did not organize the said candlelight vigil/ march on 13 May 2017 at India Gate.
Shaheed Lt. Umar Fayaz was from the Rajputana Rifles, or Raj Rif as it is commonly called in the Army. The Raj Rif regimental center is in Delhi. A lot of Raj Rif veterans have settled in and around Delhi. This is true for many veterans from other regiments, as well. 

Another unique factor was that Lt. Umar was kidnapped and murdered, while he was on leave. He was unarmed when he was murdered. To kill an unarmed man is not something that the Indian Army can understand or digest. It has never happened in the history of Operation Rakshak in Jammu & Kashmir. This led to a whole lot of rage within the army. You can’t murder an unarmed brother officer in cold blood and then assume that there will be no repercussions.

They killed Lt. Umar because it is stories like him that can change the narrative in Kashmir. Because in a place like Kashmir, Umar is not just a young man wearing Olive Green. He is a philosophy. He is an alternative. He tells the young what it means to be an officer in the Indian Army, and what it means to stand at “saavdhan” inside the Khetrapal Auditorium at IMA and sing “Jana, Gana, Mana”. Because when an Umar becomes Lt. Umar, he does not speak about “azaadi” and Burhan Wani. He speaks about his unit, his regiment, the Flag, the Constitution and the Anthem. It is okay to be Umar. But when you become Lt. Umar, you are on collision course with Jihadi ideology. 

Lt. Umar was dangerous. He was changing the thinking of people…telling them that India was their Mother and disloyalty to Mother India was blasphemy. For the very survival of those who seek to harm India, Lt. Umar could not be allowed to live. So, they hatched a cowardly plot and kidnapped him at gunpoint when he was sitting at his sister’s wedding.

Delhi is home to an entire spectrum of media houses. And, Noida, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad and Greater Noida surround Delhi. Veteran communities are very active in these areas. 

A few veterans started off the candlelight march. I was asked to support the march, which I did. The news spread through ex-servicemen networks and soon, I heard of veterans renting buses to come to Delhi. They came from Sonipat, Rewari, Panipat, Bhiwani and Jind. This is the Jat and Ahir belt of Haryana. These semi-arid lands have, for generations, given birth to warriors who drew a line of blood from Ghazni to Burma and from Flanders to Dograi. These lands have also given us the legend of Rezang La.

These are “Fauji” belts. Almost every home has a veteran. Or a story.

At one corner of the park, there were elderly Rajputana Rifles veterans wearing white kurtas with colorful “safas”. I spoke to them. They bore names like Rathore, Chauhan, Shekhawat and Bhati. These were Rajputs from far-flung deserts villages of Rajasthan. They came to pay homage to their “sahab”, an officer they had never even seen. Lt. Umar was probably not even born when these veterans had retired.

What relationship does an octogenarian Hindu from Haryana or Rajasthan have with a twenty-two year old Muslim man from Kashmir? Why does a young Rajput teenager touch his grandfather’s feet and swear vengeance for the death of that young Muslim man? What prompts a serving army officer’s wife to break down and say that her young son, all of 12 years, will one day join the army to avenge Umar? For all those who saw a political angle of minority appeasement in that gathering of 13 May, I have no other words or explanation to offer.

I address the naysayers when I say this. I sincerely seek apology if I sound rude, but unless you have worn the uniform I would find it impossible to explain, and you would fine it difficult to understand. There are bonds that run deeper than religion, caste and race. These are bonds forged by blood spilt together. When a man is dying, screaming in agony, with his head on your lap and he calls you his brother, you tend to forget which God he prayed to. 

The Indian Army is not fighting elections in Kashmir that it has to resort to minority appeasement. Please think about this. You have every right to question your army, but I think the Indian Army has earned enough respect that when you do question it; you do not wear the same glasses that you do while questioning your local politician.

Kashmir is no longer a political problem. It was, some time back. It no longer is. As I write these lines, the Hizb-ul Mujahedeen is desperately seeking to bring its willful commander, Zakir Musa, back into the folds. Reports from the Valley say that Musa is forming another terror group, one that owes allegiance to al-Qaeda. Apparently, cutting off the heads of Hurriyat leaders and displaying them at Lal Chowk is no longer a deal breaker.

Why is the HM trying to get Musa back? Because its masters in Rawalpindi know that “Kashmir Mangey Azaadi” no longer pulls at the heartstrings, as it used to. Radical, militant Islam now drives the narrative in Kashmir. Most Kashmiris are being weaned away from the argument of the UN Resolution in Kashmir. The new argument is that Kashmir wants to be part of Pakistan because Pakistan is an Islamic nation. They don’t want “Azaadi”. They want Nizam-e-Mustafa.

What is this fuss about Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat and Insaniyat? Kashmiriyat died on 19 January 1990. It was on that day when Maulvis proclaimed loudly from mosques that Kashmiri Hindus has two hours to leave their homes, and that they must leave their women behind. Lets stop beating a dead horse.

We see ISIS flags in downtown Srinagar and it bothers us not a bit. In any other country, it would have been the perfect justification for ordering an air strike. But this is India, after all. Strong condemnation is often the preferred substitute for a Hellfire missile.

The Kashmir Valley is placed precariously on edge. This is also our doing. Let us, for one minute not put the entire blame on Pakistan alone, notwithstanding the fact that its sins are many. Pakistan started the problem. We let it grow due to our submissive approach.

Quoting a famous Quranic Hadees, I have said before that “paradise is under the shade of swords”. What you truly love, you must be willing to defend with violence.

Lt. Umar was from the Rajputana Rifles. The motto of the regiment is “Veer Bhogya Vasundhara”. The brave shall inherit the earth.

The regiment is telling us something. It is time to listen.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #OnlyTheBrave #IndianArmy #ADGPI

THE THUNDER OF SILENCE

Gautam Gambhir’s Tweet about killing 100 Jihadis for every soldier insulted, set the cat amongst all the self appointed pigeons, guardians of India’s peaceful heritage, whatever that may be. Write-ups in national dailies castigated him for his ill-thought comments. Sagarika Ghose ended up asking Gambhir if he has ever been to Kashmir, and he should go to the home of a teenager blinded by a pellet gun and then talk. There were others, the so-called defenders of India’s left-liberal frontiers, who were absolutely apoplectic.

Kashmir is no North Pole, and going there is no achievement unless you are wearing a uniform and hunting terrorists, or dealing with their younger cousins, the stone pelters. You don’t need to go to Kashmir to express solidarity with your soldier. Sagarika’s outburst is typical of left-liberal journalists who will decide what you should think. So, Arundhati Roy saying that India should get out of Kashmir is freedom of speech, because she belongs to that “left-liberal-literary” stratum that we are not allowed to question, and Gambhir is a sportsperson. The thought process is “What does a cricketer know about these things anyway?” Gambhir was attacked because he encroached upon the left liberal God-given right to have and form an opinion.

Hardly had this conundrum died down, an army major tied a stone pelter to his vehicle, not in the Israeli tradition of vengeance, but in pure self-preservation.

Howls of protests erupted. The Geneva Conventions were flaunted and human rights quoted, chapter and verse. The same self-serving liberal-left went into an assault overdrive. Major Gogoi replaced Gautam Gambhir as the punching bag.

All these reactions are little more than synthetically manufactured fraud. So are the concerns about violation of Geneva Conventions. Major Gogoi did not, one fine day, get up and say, “Hey, today is the 9th of April and there is no better day to tie up a stone pelter to my vehicle”.

Let us review what happened. Polling officials, ITBP jawans and a small team of J&K Police was surrounded by an estimated mob of 900 odd stone pelters, some of them with Molotov cocktails. They had taken up positions on the streets and rooftops. Hopelessly outnumbered, the ITBP jawans sent out an SOS to the local senior army official, who without delay dispatched a Quick Reaction Team (QRT), led by Major Gogoi. Since “quick” is the operative word, QRTs are small in size. The officer reached the site and did an on-ground assessment. Heavily outnumbered and with no back up, he had two choices – shoot his way out, which would have resulted in a large number of deaths or try something so surprising and unique that a window of opportunity would present itself, so that those surrounded could be safely extricated. He chose the latter, simply because he wanted to avoid killing people.

The young major saved lives of those he had been sent to protect, no civilians were harmed and the mission was successful. I fail to understand what the fuss is about! Optics? Is that what is troubling people? Would they rather have had dead bodies? Those who have criticized this action have not said what Major Gogoi could have done, or should have done, given the circumstances. I have served in J&K. Charm does not work.

Some people have said that the lasting image of the Kashmir conflict will be the man tied to the vehicle. Why? Why not the slapping and humiliation of the CRPF soldier? To me, and to hundreds of millions of Indian, that is the lasting image; of a soldier whose hands were tied by orders, who in spite of having a weapon, did not have the freedom of action to save the honor of his uniform.

It’s easy to find fault with others when you are sitting in Delhi Gymkhana, sipping malt or in a newsroom, lord of all your survey. It’s quite another matter when you are the mission leader of a QRT who has been sent to save soldiers and civilians who are minutes away from being lynched by a “peaceful” mob of 900. The Indian Army is full of hard choices. That’s just the way it is.

For all the left-leaning liberals and Lutyens Delhi journalists lamenting the demise of democracy with respect to the army’s action, I say; the Indian Army is the last argument of the state. When you deploy the army, know this…nothing follows after it. You would do well not to second-guess the army.

Left-liberal journalism has caused more harm to India’s interests in Kashmir then the entire might of the Hurriyat. They question the motives of a young officer surrounded by certain death, who did his best to save the people he was sent to protect, and did so without inflicting collateral damage. These same journalists have nothing to say for the CRPF jawan who was slapped, kicked and punched, except that the soldier displayed “tremendous patience and professionalism”. Patience and professionalism? Is that what you thought the soldier was displaying? What I saw was humiliation of the uniform, and a soldier unable to respond because he was alone with his buddy and the stone pelters were many; a response would have lead to a bloodbath. What I saw was the state failing the soldier.

Those Kashmiri separatist youth did not just insult the soldier and his uniform. They insulted India.

Geneva Conventions were violated when Pakistanis cut off the head of Lance Nk Hemraj and Sepoy Mandeep Singh. Geneva Conventions were violated when Pakistan invaded Kargil and 527 Indian brave-hearts were martyred. The J&K Police’s Director General’s office recently initiated a circular asking policemen belonging to South Kashmir not to go home because it was not safe, is a violation of human rights of the policeman. Pakistan Army denies consular access to Kulbhushan Jhadav for perhaps the fifteenth time. On 16 April, Imtiaz Ahmed Khan was shot dead by unidentified persons in Pinjora Shopian, J&K. He was a lawyer and a social activist, and the cousin brother of a close friend.

This happens all the time and its news as usual; nothing personal about it. Viewers, we will now take a 2-minute commercial break. Don’t go away. Stay with us. That’s it?

It is because of left-liberal intelligentsia and journalists that we have come to such a passé; their writing, opinions and thoughts give impetus to those who would destroy India. What the enemy is not able to do from outside, they are doing from inside. They are opening the gates of the citadel from within.

There is a strange sense of entitlement, of knowing with absolute certainty that what they write and speak is the only truth and they deserve to be put on a pedestal because of that supposed truth. Like the gods of the Roman pantheon, they look down upon the hoi polloi, dripping hubris.

And then there is the soldier. Any patch of even ground is a bed and even cold food is eaten gratefully. He doesn’t ask for much. And we expect him to die for us.

Other countries armies & forces have just the enemy to contend with. They are supported and feted. They are applauded. It is only in India where the soldier not only fights the enemy, but also the politician, the separatist, the journalist, the leftist and an assortment of opinions. He has no support, no back up.

TV anchors will mouth platitudes about “human rights violations” and show the clip of the Kashmiri stone pelter tied to Major Gogoi’s vehicle. Relevant copies of the Geneva Conventions will be flashed on your screens. But no one will offer a solution. Surrounded by a murderous mob of 900, what options did the officer have? No one will address this question satisfactorily, because no one can. To answer this question, you should have gone through similar experiences.

But the wheel is turning a full circle. Social media has a mind of its own, and people have opinions. No longer can a media house dictate what you should think. That monopoly has been broken. It takes less than three minutes to record a video and Tweet it. If the content is right, it will go viral. Like the very recent video of Indian Army troops being applauded and feted at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. It was not news for the mainstream media. It became news because it suddenly snowballed into something humongous.

Indians have always respected the soldier. But now we see aggressive manifestations of it. When the CRPF jawan was humiliated, a young man sent a message to me, a message of rage and helplessness. He said, “When I saw those thugs slapping the soldier, I felt as if someone was slapping my father. I felt so helpless and angry”.

The pillars of the left-liberal narrative are crashing down, and in their place we see an assertive India. We see an India that has for too long been kept in intellectual and cultural subjugation, shaking off the dust from its back. A new narrative is taking shape, with India as its core. Tribals from far away Madhya Pradesh, with generations of expertise of using sling-shots to hunt, are volunteering to go to Kashmir and fight stone with stone.

The young are now asking questions; in the seminar halls and on the road. They demand to know why the soldier is being humiliated.

And this is what Indians are telling the soldier…

We are not ungrateful. We respect and acknowledge your sacrifices. You are our brother and your blood is our blood. We may not wear the uniform, but our love for the motherland is no less. We will stand together, fight together and when the time comes, die together.

The left liberal intelligentsia is not just hopelessly wrong. It is also hopelessly outnumbered, outflanked and outdated.

Their time is up. It’s just that they don’t know it yet.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #TheThunderOfSilence #adgpi #IndianArmy

THE IRON IN OUR SOUL

By 5th April, most people had packed their woolens. The sun shone brightly, and the air in Srinagar had a nip, with a hint of pine. I tucked myself in for a well-deserved sleep. The last 24-hours had been hectic and my body is not what it used to be. I crave rest, and a slight change in temperature wakes up broken bones, brutally. I again, by sheer force of habit, turned to Chapter XXII, “Of the Last Fight and the Death of Hector”. Iliad has always fascinated me; Zeus, Agamemnon, Paris, Priam, Hector and Achilles, especially Achilles who was immortal. Or so he thought.

I again grieved for noble Hector and kept down the book, with a silent prayer of thanks to Homer. They say I live in the past. Maybe.

It was at 3 am that I started shivering. I got up and put another blanket on top of the one I had been using, and convinced myself to go back to sleep. I rarely have dreams. That night was no different. But for some reason I was uneasy. I tossed and turned, resisting the desire to resurrect Hector at an unearthly hour. Sleep won, and I drifted back to those dark and smoky depths, which are much of what I see when I sleep.

I woke up to snow. Kashmir has always been an unreliable friend.

Srinagar is an urban mess, accentuated by decades of neglect. Kashmir’s rulers have always abused their state, in the worst ways possible. And what they have nurtured is strife, victimhood, alienation that has little basis in fact, and a second-generation of stone pelters who know no other trade. Kashmir no longer produces poets, philosophers, artists and civil servants. It just produces progressively regressive iterations of Farooq Abdullah and Syed Ali Shah Geelani.

I spoke to everyday Kashmiris, weary of strife and terrorism, who wanted nothing more than to secure a future for their children. They said that sometimes, the simple act of children going to school or a son coming back from college becomes an excuse for celebration.

I spoke to Jawans of Central Police Organizations (Indian Army is not operationally deployed in Srinagar), and could sense a deep pain. They are routinely humiliated by two-penny stone pelters and not permitted to retaliate. I asked a Jawan why criminal elements continued to pelt stones on them, and not the Army. His answer was straightforward. “The last time they pelted stones on Army and tried to interfere in an operation, the Army shot three of them dead. We don’t have that luxury. Unshackle us for a few hours, just a few hours, and that will be the last day of stone pelting in Srinagar,” he said, with suppressed anger.

And then there were those CRPF officers, huddled together in front of the TV on the cold evening of 6 April, eagerly waiting for some anchor to pay respects to their 75 brothers who were martyred in Dantewada. At 11:45 pm, the senior officer got up telling his juniors, “Lets go, guys. You know its not going to happen”.

He looked at me sadly and said, “We were wrong to hope. Soldiers are expendable.”

The visit to 92 Base Hospital at Badami Bagh Cantt was flooded with memories. It was here that I was brought to, evacuated actually, from HAWS (High Altitude Warfare School) in 1996 when my breathing almost stopped. The army doctors here are miracle workers, past masters of dragging back war wounded soldiers from the brink of certain death. They performed a miracle and saved Comdt. Chetan Kumar Cheetah. “He is a soldier. Yes, he is a soldier”, said a senior army medico, repeating it so that I understood. He was giving the ultimate compliment that one Fauji can give another.

My worst fears were confirmed when I was told that Maj. Satish Dahiya breathed his last here. “Stone pelters delayed the evacuation. We could not save him”, said an army medico, fury simmering just beneath the surface. “These stone pelters need to be sorted out, nice and proper”, the good doctor said. In Indian Army parlance, “sorting out” is a wide-ranging term. It can mean any measure of pain inflicted, including death. I was not surprised. The doctors here are lifesavers. But they are also soldiers. As we stood quietly inside the ICU, I realized that all doctors were wearing combat uniform (jungle camouflage) with ranks.

One OPD ward was full of CRPF and Jammu & Kashmir police personnel. Normally, you do not see personnel from other forces in army hospitals (except Navy and Air Force), since all CPOs and police organizations have their own tie ups outside. On asking the reason, I was told that in the past, when locals found out that a CRPF jawan or a policeman was admitted in a civil hospital, they would assault him inside the hospital. There have been cases of locals assaulting jawans inside ICUs.

92 Base Hospital is an Indian Army hospital. There are serious looking men with Kalashnikovs outside. The injured are safe here.

Farooq Abdullah says that we are losing Kashmir. I don’t know if we are losing Kashmir but we are certainly losing our patience. While our soldiers are shedding blood, the Kashmiri separatists and politicians are selling whatever bits and pieces of Kashmir they can find.

Kashmir does not need a healing touch. That bus has left long back. What it requires is immediate surgery. I am not a doctor but I understand that surgery requires the spilling of blood. So be it.

As a first step, the Hurriyat must be made irrelevant, immediately. No one elected them to power. India is a democracy and the only way to power is through the people. If the Hurriyat do not represent the people, whom do they represent? Let the Central Government cut of all their funding and security. Let them roam the streets of Srinagar like normal people. Let them buy their own medicines and their own flight tickets. We spend about INR 100 crores a year on the Hurriyat and other separatists. Lets stop this now. The Central Government must also immediately stop speaking to the Hurriyat. There must be massive outreach to the common man on the street. Some of the alienation is real, while a large part of it is synthetically manufactured. Nonetheless, it must be addressed. And it must be addressed without the Hurriyat.

Declare President’s Rule in Jammu & Kashmir. The Governor will call the shots. We need someone who is ruthless, yet balanced, someone whom the people respect. He has to be a former General of the Indian Army and also someone with vast knowledge of Kashmir and its people; perhaps an ex-GOC of XV Corps. It is beyond my pay grade to recommend names. The distance between Company Commanders and Corps Commanders is as large as that between Earth and Jupiter. I will keep my peace. But those who are plugged into Kashmir know what I am speaking about.

Give back the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) its honor. They must have the right to defend themselves. This force needs urgent respite. It is forever in operations. Kashmir to Naxal Operations, North East to Election Duty, Counter Insurgency Operations to Disaster Relief there is a never-ending cycle of extreme pressure.

Hand over Srinagar to Indian Army immediately and put the entire Kashmir Valley under AFSPA. For 10 days, cut off the Valley completely – no Internet, no mobile or landline connectivity, no flights, no TV or radio, no road traffic (incoming or outgoing) and no postal service/ couriers. Then start “housekeeping”. Don’t touch the innocent. Don’t spare the guilty. You have the names and addresses of all those who waved the Pakistani flag and pelted stones. Get the boys to pay them a visit.

Send arrested stone pelters to prison for a year, but never within the state. Nagaland has 11 prisons. Send one stone pelter to each prison. In that entire prison, he will be the only Kashmiri. The language, food, climate; everything that helps identify him, as a person will be absent. Select states that have absolutely no similarity with Kashmir in any manner, where even Hindi is not frequently spoken. States like Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar must be chosen. A hundred prisons must be chosen and a hundred stone pelters must be imprisoned there, just one prisoner for one prison. They will have all the human rights they want – food, rest, recreation etc. No one will be mistreated or even touched. But a Kashmiri in a Nagaland prison may as well be on Mars.

The Kashmiri youth who humiliate soldiers do so because we permit it. They know that the CRPF will not retaliate, unless the provocation is extreme. There is also the matter of the Supreme Court ruling that make it mandatory for filing of FIRs for encounter deaths by armed forces, even in disturbed areas under AFSPA. The Central Government must somehow prevail upon the Supreme Court to overturn this ruling. You cannot fight enemies of the state constantly worrying about how you will have to stand in court, as the accused.

While the Special Operations Group of the Jammu & Kashmir police is doing a stellar job, the regular police have their own challenges. There are regular charges of harassment and fleecing of the populace. Police also stand compromised because they live in the same neighborhood as the stone thrower and the terrorist. They live in constant fear of their lives and that of their families.

India must have an “Enemy of the State Act”, that ensures, among other provisions, that once a person is declared enemy of the state, the property in the person’s name belongs to the government. Using this act, the properties of all leaders of Hurriyat Conference must be attached and then auctioned, the funds used for welfare of soldiers.

There have been talks of trifurcation of J&K into Jammu, Kashmir & Ladakh. This is something that must be pursued with vigor. About Article 370, there are disparate views, each more extreme than the other. Those in defence of the article know even less about it, than those who would abrogate it. The government must put its best legal brains to come up with a solution. Pakistan has already initiated the process of declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth state, all this due to Chinese pressure and CPEC.

The point I am making is elementary. If we want to be a super power, now is the time to start acting like one. Let’s be practical. Soft states are not invited to sit at the high table of the United Nations Security Council. Human Rights are important, but they are not the reason that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Lets not make these rights the cornerstone of our national philosophy. The five permanent members of the UNSC are perhaps the worst human rights violators on earth. And they are the ones who get to point fingers at India’s so-called “excesses” in Kashmir. Russia and China have murdered millions of their own citizens and sent many more to death camps. America has waged more wars than all the other nations on earth combined. England and France have the worst colonial records, marred by plunder and slavery.

To fight terrorists in Kashmir and elsewhere, we use platoon weapons. We use AK47’s, Rocket Launchers (84 mm Carl Gustaf) and Light Machine Guns. We do this so that collateral damage can be restricted. This is our ethos.

When Pakistan carried out Operation Zarb-e-Azb to eliminate terror in North Waziristan and its tribal areas, this is what Pakistani forces used – F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, 203 mm & 155 mm artillery guns and cannon-mounted armored personnel carriers.

And Pakistan brazenly accuses us of using disproportionate force in Kashmir.

We must support Balochistan. Let our embassies have annual seminars on 27 March across the world. This day, Pakistan invaded and occupied a free country and made a proud people slaves. We must educate the world on how Pakistan is indulging in genocide, mostly prodded on by China. The Indian Government must also fund infrastructure for Baloch identity, internationally. Let there be a Balochistan House in twenty major world cities, manned and operated by Baloch people. The responsibility of these Baloch “embassies” will be to educate the country’s government and local population about Pakistan’s shenanigans.

Balochistan must have a Government in Exile in New Delhi, all paid for and protected by the Indian Government. We should divert our funding of Kashmiri separatists to the Baloch. Our largesse is for our friends, and not for traitors. Once this is done, Kashmir will no longer be the raison d’etre of Pakistan’s existence. It will have just too much on its plate.

Kashmir will not find peace because we want it to. It will find peace when we start respecting ourselves.

Kashmiri separatist youth slapping and kicking a soldier is not just demeaning to the uniform. It speaks of a greater malaise, that of a nation unsure of itself. It is not important that we are right. What is important is that we act. Act with finality, precision and when required, with the heel of the soldier’s boot.

Those Kashmiri youth were not insulting our soldier. They were insulting our country. They were committing treason. And we were unable to safeguard the honor of our soldier. This is the soldier we expect will die for us. We have failed him. Let this be the last time. Let us speak together as a nation, loud and proud. Let us roar with all our might.

The punishment for treason is death.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #adgpi # #TheIronInOurSoul

 

THE UNIT

17 years have passed, and 17 Kumaon is still my parachute. I was desperately looking for my army photos. Then it struck me….why not ask the Unit for help? Within 8 hours, I got these gems from 1995-96, with the promise of more to follow. The Unit always comes through.

These photos triggered memories.

These are the men who made me what I am. They trained me. Yes, they were very tough taskmasters. After all, their brief was simple “Defend India, whatever the cost”. They could not have been gentle.

I remember the nights of sheer exhaustion, running with sand packs in the burning desert, endless map reading classes, weapons training, radio telephony, first aid…it went on an on.

Many a time I fell down and sometimes my knees just gave way. But they were relentless. No mercy. “You cannot be soft and defend India”, they said.

My body would scream in agony. They told me that toughness is in the mind…learn to ignore pain, cold, heat and hunger. You are a soldier, they said.

And then there were the Kumaoni troops, men of the mountains. Strong, brave, honourable and tough. They were men of character. My seniors told me that to lead them you had to be worthy. If you were worthy, a Kumaoni would follow you to the very gates of hell. And if it was a matter of “Izzat” he would even fight the gods. The Kumaonis had no fear of death. They proved that in Kashmir.

I am no longer in the Unit. But I am still a part of it. My seniors still guide me. They are still unsparing. 17 summers have passed, but in many ways I am still held to account if I go wrong.

After all these years, and for all of us, the center of gravity remains what it was, and what it will always be…Paltan ki Izzat.

The Unit is not just an organisational group, a mathematical collection of men. It is a breathing entity. With our blood and sweat we nurture the unit. And the unit nurtures us.

Yes, there is an invisible umbilical cord that binds us to the Unit. One day, we will all die. But the Unit will live.

The Unit is immortal.

Jai Ram Sarv Shaktiman. Kalika Mata Ki Jai.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
#IndianArmy #adgpi #theunit

THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN

The exact date escapes me, but it was around the year 1190 AD when the Muslim armies of King Saladin clashed with the Christian knights of King Richard, The Lionheart. The war was for Jerusalem, a city believed divine by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Hundreds and thousands of soldiers, mercenaries and civilians had perished in the First and Second Crusades, and thousands more would die in the Third Crusades, some for the cross, and others for the crescent.

There was a third invisible power that was driving its own agenda, ruthlessly and ferociously. They attacked Muslims and Christians both, and such was the finesse they exhibited while killing that soldiers of both armies had started to believe that it was the work of ghosts and jinns. They did not leave their footprints in the sand, so to say.

Saladin was a wise ruler, compassionate and merciful. And he did not believe in ghosts. He was almost murdered twice in his sleep, leading to a royal commissioning of spies to find out who would want him dead. The spies came back with a damning report. There was a secret group of highly skilled killers on top of a mountain fortress in Alamut. These secretive killers were all Naziri Ismailis, a sect of Shia Muslims, who owed allegiance to an old man called Hassan-i Sabah.

The killers would consume hashish, a potent drug and sway in religious abandon, as if in a trance, chanting the name of Allah. Once they had reached the peak of religious ecstasy, they were sent by Hassan-i Sabah to kill and spread terror. Since these secretive killers consumed hashish before going on their mission, they were called hashishin.

 

After the Third Crusades ended, the Europeans went back home. Amongst the memories they took back was of these deadly hashish-consuming killers. The French, however, could not pronounce the word hashishin.

So, they called them assassins.

What made the hashishins so formidable? It was certainly not the number of people they killed. Perhaps, the human mind is terrified of the unknown, the great black, as it were. The suddenness and efficiency of their methods, compounded by the secrecy of their order was what struck terror in the hearts of battle hardened generals.

Over the past three decades, Islam has become the alias for all that is violent. But before we accept this without question, let us revisit history. Who were the world’s greatest killers, ever? Genghis Khan was a pagan. Stalin was an atheist. Hitler was Catholic. Mao denied the existence of God. Timur the Lame was Muslim.

We see that mass murderers have been found in beliefs other than Islam, too.

Japanese Air Force in the Second World War had Kamikaze pilots, who flew suicide missions. Their aim was to cause maximum damage to the enemy and when they were out of ammunition, they would fly their plane into the closest available military target. Closer home, between 1980 and 2000, the LTTE carried out 168 suicide attacks, some of them on civilian targets.

Then why does the world find it so easy to think of terrorism as an alias for the Islamic world? Perhaps, no one apart from those who follow political Islam, have used terror as a weapon so systematically and consistently against largely civilian non-combatants.

It is the same hashishin mindset. It is the suddenness, the sheer incomprehension on the part of the victim as to why the attack was carried out, that makes it so deadly. This was the same logic behind the 26/11 attacks; attack a target and carry out mass murder, which, on the face of it, is totally devoid of logic. What people do not understand, they fear.

A few days back, Burhan Wani’s successor and the local head of terror group Hizb-ul-Mujahedeen Zakir Musa made an appeal to the people of Kashmir. He said that the war with India was not for Kashmir, it was for Islam. He further asked the stone pelters to pelt for the faith, and that nationhood and democracy had no place in Islam.

What Zakir Musa was trying to say was that “azaadi” was not what the Jihad was about. The Jihad was about establishing the Khilafat, or Islamic State where the law would be Nizam-e-Mustafa, or the law of the Prophet (PBUH).

Across the Line of Control, two incidents have happened which on the face of it, seem disconnected to what Zakir Musa said. But on close study, a pattern emerges.

One, Pakistan has started the process of granting statehood to Gilgit Baltistan. This has put a spanner in the Hurriyat works. Suddenly Pakistan, the Hurriyat role model and sponsor, looks as bad as India. Statehood to Gilgit Baltistan is happening under immense Chinese pressure. China will not invest in an area that the Pakistan Constitution deems “azaad”. China is Shylock 2.0 and to think they would do business based on sentiment is displaying the worst kind of naivety about the Middle Kingdom.

Two, the Kashmir ‘freedom struggle’ circus is dead. It can slow-walk and crawl for another few years but after that, it will fade away. For almost three decades, the Kashmir terror infrastructure has tried every trick in the book to lure Indian Muslims to fight in Kashmir. Not one Indian Muslim went to Kashmir for anything more daring than a shikara ride on the Dal Lake. Foreign fighters have dried up. Kashmir was where Sudanese, Arabs, Afghans and assorted Central Asians would come and earn their spurs against the mighty Indian army. No longer. What you have are a few Pakistani Punjabis and a sprinkling of Pashtuns. The rest are local youth, who are not great fighting material anyway.

When Zakir Musa changes the discourse from ‘freedom’ to Islamic Jihad, he is exponentially expanding the canvas. He is giving terrorists everywhere just cause. He is turning Kashmir into a magnet for any deranged maniac with a desire to take a shortcut to Jannat.

I predict that this will be the bloodiest summer in a decade. I predict that we will have foreign visitors crossing over to fight in Kashmir. I predict that the Indian Army will take off its gloves. It will change tactics. I don’t know what they will do or how they will do it, but my gut tells me that from July onwards, Indian Army casualties and fatalities will decrease.

There is a reason why the Indian Army loses so many fine young men in encounters while the Israelis and Americans don’t. Non-combatants are not legitimate targets for the Indian Army. If there is a house with terrorists and hostages, the Americans and Israelis have a policy of putting a missile into the building, collateral damage notwithstanding. The Indian Army believes that Kashmiris are our citizens and that hostages must be saved. How can you save hostages? By putting your own soldiers in harms way.

Our army is capable of extraordinary violence but that violence is not cruel. We will kill the enemy but you will not hear that your army has tortured prisoners, or treated the enemy dead with disrespect. The Indian Army is different. As I often say, we are not just a powerful army. We are also a moral army. We are not strong because we have weapons. We are strong because we are right.

The summer of 2017 will be extremely violent. This will be a bare-knuckled fight, a throwback to the nineties. You will see black-clad Rashtriya Rifles soldiers hunting day and night, without respite. There will be blood. But then before Zakir Musa is killed, and killed he will be, I hope he realizes that he should have let the wolves sleep. He is pushing hundreds of youth into the arms of terror, and RR does not care. They will just keep killing. That is why the Indian Army raised them…to kill for peace.

Pakistan feels that creating mayhem by calling directly for Islamic Jihad will bleed India. And that will force India on the back foot. It imagines that India will burn in Srinagar and somehow the fires will not spill over into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. And that somehow the CPEC will remain insulated.

In Pakistan there are hundreds of such old men. And in Kashmir there are hundreds of such mountains. Or so they believe.

In 1256 AD, the Mongol hordes crushed Alamut. The old man of the mountain was no more. History is witness that every old man meets his fate. Every mountain is humbled.

761 years have passed. It is now time to crush the hashishins once more.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #adgpi #TheOldManOfTheMountain

THE NARROW ROAD

The Republic

A narrow road divides St. Stephens’ and Hindu College. It is not more than 16 steps across, but speak to the students of either college, and they will have you believe that you were crossing a chasm to a different philosophy. All this is hogwash, of course. But there is a romance to college life, much of it in the heads of those who go to college.

It was 1991 and I crossed that road everyday. I did not have friends in Hindu. All my friends were in Hansraj, where I spent countless evenings. I have fond memories of Sanjeev (also a school buddy) who is now the MD & CEO of an upcoming cosmetic surgery brand, Arvind who is now a senior HR professional with the Taj Group, Anand who is remembered for loudly singing “we didn’t start the fire” when everyone believed that he obviously did, and Anurag who now directs violent movies. Anurag was not a friend but he was visible around the friends who I sat with, and with whom I wasted away much of my graduation years. Anthony, who ran the Hansraj canteen, believed that I was a student. I think I still owe Anthony thirteen rupees; if memory serves, I think it was a Thums Up and two samosas.

I had to cross Hindu College to get to Hansraj, and would sometimes run into this tall and academic looking young man. We never spoke. A smile and raised eyebrows were acceptable greetings. And once, we did speak. He spoke English with a precise accent, was aggressive yet polite in speech and his diction and pronunciation were spot on. When he spoke Hindi, it was with a very slight accent. Was it Bengali or Assamese? No clue.

I left St. Stephens College in 1992 and joined the Indian Army in 1993. I kept in touch with Sanjeev and Arvind. I don’t know where Anand went. We all know where Anurag went.

I don’t watch much TV, but once I did tune in to watch news. It was a debate and the anchor was conducting it with a very familiar, controlled aggression. There was something about the way he looked and spoke, which triggered a memory. Then it struck me. He was the tall guy from Hindu College.

One day in 2016, Burhan Wani was killed, and in sheer frustration of seeing multitudes worshipping a dead terrorist at his funeral, I wrote an article called “Open Letter to Burhan Wani” and posted it on Facebook before I went to sleep. Before I went to sleep, I had 530 friends on Facebook. When I woke up, there were 732 likes and friend requests. By noon, I was getting phone calls. By 4 pm, I got a call from Army Headquarters from a serving general in the Indian Army.

“Great article, son”, the general said.

“Thank you, Sir,” I responded. I don’t have much experience of speaking to generals and so I kept it short.

“Keep up the good work, son. All the best.” The general disconnected the call.

I accepted all the FB friend requests that I received. The next day, I got a call from a well-known English news channel, inviting me to a panel discussion on Burhan Wani’s killing. That was my first time on TV. I spoke like I always do – blunt and to the point. I was an infantry company commander in the Indian Army. You don’t get more rough-edged than that. The channel people were perhaps a tad disappointed. They were used to a certain finesse, which I obviously did not bring to the table.

Three days after that show, I was invited to another English news channel, and ushered into a swanky building at Film City, Noida. As I entered the studio, a familiar face rose from his chair to greet me. The same tall guy from Hindu College.

“Welcome to News Hour, Gaurav”, he said.

And so it started for me, the whole crusade of telling the brutal truth without pulling punches…. debate after debate, we did it. Those who would attack India were put in the dock.

Arnab was telling the truth. I, in my very minuscule way, was trying to defend India. I soon realized that it was the same thing.

Time passed and Arnab left Times Now. I did not hear from him for months.

Last week, I received an unexpected call. The voice at the other end of the line said, “Gaurav, do you have a minute? Boss would like to speak with you”.

So, Arnab and I spoke. And then I took a leap of faith.

In our very small, insignificant way, we will again stand up for India. We are unapologetically nationalistic. It is in our DNA. To sugar coat news would be to lie to you. And that is sacrilege. It is blasphemy. It will never be done.

For too long in the mainstream media, faux ideology has substituted fact. Sometimes, it has been money, sometimes special interest. No longer.

In the next few months, Arnab Goswami is bringing a hurricane to your doorstep. And I am coming with that hurricane. News will never be the same again.

Ladies and Gentlemen, long live #TheRepublic

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #TheNarrowRoad #adgpi #Republic