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

 

THE SHADOW OF OUR SILENCE

As a nation, we choose silence. And it is in the shadow of our silence that treason spawns its many sons. Its primary weapons are intellectual elitism and social snobbery. We are told that to be a nationalist is to be cerebrally stunted, showing little understanding of how we are really meant to be, as citizens of the world. In this synthetically manufactured utopia, common sense is a supposed clue to lack of breeding. So we, the people, must close our eyes to the ugliness that manifests itself in so many forms each moment, and celebrate an idea that is never to be.

It does not rain in September, you say. Well, it should, they say. And they say it with a smug visage that only intellectual inbreeding can give you.

Disturbing images of students marching, chanting “azaadi” for Kashmir and Bastar are beamed live into our drawings rooms. Colorful party flags are carried and banners displayed, each political party careful to display the tri-color, perhaps consciously accepting even while shouting slogans for the disintegration of India, nothing has better brand recall than the Flag.

Our vision has become politically binary. A nationalist is a “bhakt” by default, whether he likes it or not. And, a person with an opinion on free speech & human rights is a traitor. As I said, we are politically binary. Zero or one.

Who is a traitor? A person who is an Indian and does not believe in the Constitution of India, and openly calls for the dismemberment of this great nation is a traitor. He who actively or passively aids and abets the enemy is a traitor. And he who motivates and encourages others to treason is also a traitor.

All citizens have a right to protest, and that right cannot be questioned. It is your duty as an Indian to question the government. Question everything that your mind can conceive, and your heart cannot accept. Let your conscience be your moral compass. But do not cross the Rubicon. When you call for the dismemberment of India, you are crossing the thin red line. People have protected this nation with their blood for centuries. Families have been shattered, sons and daughters slaughtered by an unforgiving enemy.

Over millennia, countless Indians have been martyred defending this idea of India. For people to willingly court martyrdom for an idea simply speaks for how worthy this idea is.

India is worth dying for. It’s also worth killing for, because what you love, you must be willing to defend with violence.

Is a person calling for human rights implementation in Kashmir and other places a traitor? Absolutely not. We must respect human rights in Kashmir and everywhere else. If there is rape, it must be punished. If a person in uniform commits it, it is doubly heinous. I believe that punishment for rape must be death.

But soldiers have human rights too. If you interfere in a counter terror operation and pelt stones, you are asking to be shot. If you pelt stones at security forces and then take it up a few notches by throwing Molotov cocktails and acid bottles, pellet guns are too good for you. You are begging for a 7.62 mm full metal jacket.

Why are we so tentative with the use of force? We have mobs in Srinagar attacking CRPF men and chasing them down the street, simply because the CRPF does not have orders to shoot in self-defense. Similar scenes have been witnessed in Bangalore. When a man in uniform is attacked, it is the prestige of the state that takes a hit. Often, berserk mobs need to be shown overwhelming and brute force. Mobs everywhere comprise of cowards. Put two down and the rest will go home. All that the mobs need to see is resolute will. Everything else falls into place.

We are seen as a soft state, a weak state. Pakistan does a Kargil and we do nothing. It then mounts a full-fledged terror attack in Mumbai and we do nothing. Uri. Pathankot. Nagrota. Nothing.

Pakistan breeds secession in Punjab and calls it Khalistan. Nothing. A 28-year-old insurgency in Kashmir, which has mutated into full-fledged terrorism, funded and abetted by Pakistan. Nothing.

An ex-Chief Minister of Kerala says proudly that he did not donate blood to the Indian Army during the 1962 war, making his loyalty to China obvious. Nothing. The Chief Minister of West Bengal does not allow the Indian Army to carry out an Impressment Exercise, a simple data collection of heavy vehicles on roads for possible use in times of war, but welcomes millions of refugees from Bangladesh because she needs the votes. Nothing.

We have become The Nothing State.

Today, I say this again – a nation does not live on its knees.

We are a proud and ancient civilization. For thousands of years, invaders have galloped into India, raping and pillaging, converting and changing. It is a testimony to the steel in our spine that we worship the same way we did five thousand years back. And most of us live without rancor.

But history also bears testimony to the harsh and unpalatable truth that the gates of the citadel have always been opened from inside. A dark comedy unfolds when we learn of the secular fabric of treason; for every Jai Chand, we have a Mir Jafar.

India faces danger from within, and it is a visible, clear and present danger that we have chosen to overlook. Sometimes it’s our belief that India is too huge for anyone to unsettle, and sometimes we simply choose to look the other way thinking nothing will change. Fatalism is the chink in our armour.

Our will must be resolute. Wooly ideas and fairy tales do not defend Nations. The foundations of Bharat are soaked in the blood of martyrs.

Who but the soldier understands peace? Who craves peace more than the soldier? We want peace, even with Pakistan. But we want peace with honor. We may live a few days without food and a few moments without air. But how can a nation exist without honor? It is this honor that the treasonous horde would deny us, always pushing for a sorry compromise.

It is now time to confront those who seek to dismember India, hiding behind freedom of speech. When students demand “azaadi” for Kashmir and mainstream political parties support their freedom to express treason, we must understand that the time has come.

The time has come to unshackle our voices and free our universities and colleges from the chains of intellectual terrorism. The time to hold back has passed. We are committed to battle.

We can no longer stand in the sidelines, and watch events unfold. The time has come to choose the flag under which we will fight. Choose wisely. This is a fight to the finish.

Twenty-three years back I chose my flag, with a promise to my God that I would fight under it or come back wrapped in it.

Whichever flag you choose, let the world know.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #TheShadowOfOurSilence #adgpi

 

STEEL FIST

For the last 24 hours, a section of the Indian media has been in an uproar. The center of attention this time is Gen. Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army. And all because the general took umbrage to separatists in Kashmir valley directly interfering in anti-terror operations, hence aiding and abetting terrorists, and also a section of the population waving ISIS and Pakistan flags.

Harinder Baweja, that undisputed queen of all that is seditious, writes a rambling monologue in the Hindustan Times titled “General Rawat, hold your fire. All Kashmiri youth are not aides of Jihadis”. She has done what jaded journalists of her leaning so often do; decide the outcome of the article and then create facts to suit an argument.

In his statement, Gen. Rawat specifically mentioned stone pelting separatists who directly, and habitually, intervene in anti-terror operations with the single aim of abetting the terrorists. Also, he warned separatists who waved ISIS and Pakistan flags. He never once spoke or insinuated about Kashmiri youth in general.

Baweja cleverly skirted the issue, because on the face of it, the Army Chief’s statement was matter-of-fact. You would not expect the Chief of the Indian Army to say anything different. What she did was add lie and deceit into a straightforward statement.

The COAS never mentioned, even indirectly, all Kashmiri youth being Jihadist. Then why did Harinder Baweja lie so blatantly? Because if she hadn’t, there wouldn’t have been any story. She knows the ethos of the Indian Army well. Gen. Bipin Rawat would do all he could to defend his organization and his men, but he would not lift a finger to defend himself. This was a bonanza for her. She could shoot at a target at will, secure in the knowledge that the target would never shoot back at her. So, Harinder Baweja went after the Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.

She starts the article with a disclosure. She says that she is sympathetic to the men in uniform, following it up with the comment that army men are called “Indian Dogs” in Kashmir. She further says that she has Fauji blood in her veins. The assault on the Chief starts with her saying that the Chief’s words made her cringe.

Her interview with Lashkar-e-Toiba’s Abdullah Muntazir did not make her cringe. When she interviewed Burhan Wani’s father (the terrorist was still alive then), she did not cringe when the old man said that he would gladly see his son die in Jihad against India. But when the Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army said that he took exception to ISIS and Pakistan flags on Indian territory, Harinder Baweja dug deep into the ethical recesses of her journalistic soul and found the morality to cringe.

Political parties are defending stone pelting on TV. “Speak to the mislead youth” they say. I agree. We must speak to the youth in Kashmir. We must engage with them everyday, every minute if we are to succeed in Kashmir. But what is unethical and blatantly anti-national must be put on collision course with the Indian Army. There are youth who shout slogans against India in Kashmir. India’s democracy gives them this right. It gives the same right to left-wing liberals in JNU and weavers of candyfloss at Jadavpur University. There can be a vociferous counter argument.

The Kashmir issue must be debated within the ambit of the Constitution of India, because when a solution comes forth, and come forth it will, it will come from within the pages of our Constitution. But it cannot be debated with the evil and compromised old blood-sucking leeches of the Hurriyat Conference. And it cannot be debated with the political parties of Kashmir. They have the ability to change colors that would put a professional chameleon to shame. We must engage directly with the youth of Kashmir. And only the young can engage with the young.

As for the men who fly the Pakistan flag, and throw stones to compromise anti-terror operations, they must immediately find themselves at the wrong end of a 7.62 mm full metal jacket round. I am willing to talk, compromise and bend over backward to accommodate people. But if you insult the symbols of Mother India, I will wish death upon you.

Many people ask why I take such an unbending stand on issues. Let me explain.

I am an ultra-hardline nationalist. For me your religion, caste, color, creed, political affiliation and ideology count for nothing. I don’t care. But India is not just a nation with an ancient culture and a billion people. It is manifestation of living and breathing divinity. When I say “Jai Hind” or “Vande Mataram” I am not being patriotic. I am worshipping at the feet of my Mother.

If you disagree with me and wish to talk, I will talk with you. I will defend your right to disagree with me. But you may never question my country, and you may not speak of Her symbols in any manner short of utmost respect. If you do, I will come looking for you.

Major Dahiya lay bleeding with multiple Gun Shot Wounds (GSWs). During evacuation, locals stoned army vehicles carrying the injured officer. They also created enough confusion so that terrorists could slip away, because the army refused to fire on civilians.

Bleeding heart liberals and separatists eulogies stone throwers saying that they have no fear of the Indian Army. This is a pure lie. The fact is that stone throwers have had very little exposure to the Indian Army. And the amount of restraint that CRPF and J&K police have shown, all I can say is that I am amazed. I have seen videos of CRPF jawans being chased and beaten by these stone throwers. Those Jawans mostly had a lathi in their hands, and sometimes a pellet gun. Give the Jawan an AK 47 and a free hand. I promise you today, all these “brave” stone throwers will vanish like snowflakes in May.

What would you have done had you been in the place of Gen. Bipin Rawat?

The General did nothing but uphold the honor of the nation and lead his men. That is what he is supposed to do. That is why he is the Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.

The breaking story is not what Gen. Bipin Rawat said. The story is in what he stood for.

I have said this before and I will say it again. A nation does not live on its knees. The restraint the Indian Army has shown is being construed for weakness. And such a construct cannot be allowed to exist.

Who are we trying to appease? People who actively act as agents of terrorists and wave ISIS and Pakistan flags? Is this what our much vaunted democracy has come to, selling our nation for a few votes?

It will be a long summer. Maybe the longest in a decade. But we cannot flinch. We will not flinch. This is not a fight for Kashmir. It is a war for all that India holds sacred.

The Indian Army prides itself on being a steel fist, but one that always wears a velvet glove. Gen. Bipin Rawat, COAS of Indian Army just ordered his men to take off the velvet glove.

Now traitors will see our steel fist.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #SteelFist #IndianArmy #adgpi

 

 

BY WAY OF DECEPTION

The wound of 1962 just would not heal; the humiliation just would not go away. And then came the 1965 war with Pakistan. In both wars, intelligence gathering and analysis was identified as a black hole. We simply did not get information in time. And when we did, it was not accurate.

The Intelligence Bureau was responsible for foreign and domestic intelligence, and somehow, in spite of immense resources and political reach, it failed to deliver. India needed a lean and specialized foreign intelligence agency that would do whatever it took to deliver and this agency would have carte blanche. It would operate in the shadows, and like smoke go where it wanted. It would operate globally in that grey area which would give India “plausible deniability”.

It would not be an “agency”, in the narrow Indian context, but a wing of the Cabinet Secretariat and hence not answerable to the Parliament of India. So, they decided to structure it on the lines of the Central Intelligence Agency of the USA.

In 1968, Indira Gandhi created the Research and Analysis Wing, under Mr. RN Kao, the legendary spymaster.

RAW was, in the beginning, a part of IB, but later branched off into an independent unit.

The role of RAW (or R&AW as its operatives like to call their mother agency) is hazy. It is however agreed that RAW takes “care of India’s interests globally”. Its role includes, but is not limited to, covert operations, foreign intelligence gathering, monitoring political, economic and technical (technology & science) development in ‘enemy’ countries, molding of opinion in foreign countries and other tasks that may be given from time to time.

There have been insinuations and accusations of RAW’s involvement in assassinations and overthrow of foreign regimes, thought unfriendly to India.

When former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the 8 January 2015 election by a humiliating margin, he blamed RAW in an interview given to Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post. He said that RAW used the Indian Embassy in Colombo to stage-manage his defeat, because he was getting too close to the Chinese. Similarly, RAW was blamed for the 1 June 2001 massacre of the Nepalese Royal Family, by Prince Dipendra, the crown prince of Nepal. These allegations were made in 2001 by Pushpa Kamal Dahal aka Prachanda, who is the current Prime Minister of Nepal, and an avowed Maoist. Prachanda was blatantly pro-China and was pushing for mainstreaming the Maoist party in Nepal, towards total power. Some conspiracy theorists say that Prachanda is next.

However, RAW has always maintained that it neither has the mandate, intent nor capability to carry out such operations, and that it is simply an information gathering setup.

RAW is headed by Secretary (Research) in the Cabinet Secretariat, and is colloquially referred to as Chief of RAW. The position reports to the Prime Minister of India, but administratively Secretary (Research) reports to the Cabinet Secretary. For operational matters, Secretary (Research) works with the NSA.

Earlier, the JIC (Joint Intelligence Committee) was the umbrella organization responsible for coordination of intelligence efforts between IB, DIA (Defence Intelligence Agency) and RAW. But with the creation of the National Security Council, the NSC is the intelligence mother ship. It controls all intelligence organizations and is headed by the NSA.

RAWs first major success was the 1971 Indo-Pak war. It worked closely with IB, Indian Army, Navy & Air Force. It oversaw the recruitment, funding, training and deployment of the Mukti Bahini. In 1975, RAW oversaw the deposing of Sikkim’s Chogyal rulers and its integration into India as a state. It did the background intelligence work and the Indian Army did the rest.

Over the years, as the organization evolved, it started adding capabilities, all of them vicious. Some were sharp edged, the others blunt.

Electronic & Technical Services (ETS) and Radio Research Center (RRC) are two organizations that deal specifically with signals intelligence, collation of data, analysis and electronic warfare. ARC (Aviation Research Center) is a specialized unit that does aerial reconnaissance for RAW, and is also heavily involved in satellite imagery. National Technical Research Organization (NTRO) is responsible for very high-end electronic surveillance and Internet monitoring. It is, in effect, a highly technical intelligence gathering organization that is the feeder to other intelligence services and the Indian armed forces. It also has largely confidential capabilities in cryptology, remote sensing and cyber warfare.

In the mid-fifties, the CIA and the Intelligence Bureau established the Mustang Base, in Mustang, Nepal. This base was used for training Tibetans in guerilla warfare and covert operations behind enemy lines.

Cut to the disaster of 1962, and Intelligence Bureau put an enormous amount of pressure on Prime Minister Nehru. The time for peace with China was over. “Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai” was a lie. IB was cryptic and clear. India needed a Special Force, which could fight deep inside China, a high altitude specialist force consisting of soldiers who were born and raised in such super-high altitudes. This force would have the best weaponry and would consist entirely of paratroopers.

On 14 November 1962, Special Frontier Force (SFF) was created. The core groups consisted of pure Tibetans.

The SFF would be used for covert and clandestine intelligence gathering operations, spec-ops inside Chinese territory, direct action, reconnaissance and other secret missions. CIA, US Green Berets and India’s Intelligence Bureau trained the force. Though exact numbers are not known, its strength is said to stand at 10,000 today. SFF is stationed at Chakrata in Uttarakhand. It is also known as Establishment 22 and was so called after its first head Maj. Gen. Sujan Singh Uban who had earlier commanded 22 Mountain Regiment. If you find army officers, referring to something called “VIKAS”, it is the SFF battalions they are speaking about.

RAW had all its bases covered, except one. It still felt the need for a very small unit of highly elite Special Forces soldiers and officers. This unit would carry out what is commonly known as “black ops”, an oft-used euphuism for selective operations with total and absolute deniability. These operations would be so sensitive and secret that the Government of India would never own up to them. It would bluntly deny any knowledge of the operation. This unit would not exist on paper. It would be a “ghost unit”.

In 1981, the Directorate General of Security launched Project Sunray. A colonel of 10 Para SF was quietly moved out from his unit and asked to handpick 250 of the best Special Forces men he could find.

This was the ultra-secret Special Group (SG), the existence of which was denied for years before it was hesitatingly accepted. Even now its officers and men cannot be photographed. The SG became RAW’s hammer. It would carry out operations that were too dangerous, too secret or just too inconvenient for anyone else to touch.

The core of SG is Para SF and it is stationed in Sarsawa (UP).

SG has been deliberately kept in the shadows. The only time people saw SG operators was after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. There was no SPG (Special Protection Group) at that time to protect the PM. Indira’s own bodyguards had killed her. No one could be trusted. The Indian Army does not guard politicians, not even the PM of India. There was no alternative. The task was given to RAW. Suddenly, the power corridors of New Delhi woke up one fine morning to tall bearded men with long hair carrying sophisticated automatic weapons. These men donned black dungarees and wore no ranks. They enforced an absolute wall of silence; no one knew what was happening. They protected Rajiv Gandhi till the time the SPG was created in 1985. And then they went back to Sarsawa.

I had the opportunity to interact with a Delhi Police veteran who spoke of those dark days when Delhi had descended into chaos. He had to meet someone at the PMO and ran into two SG operators. “They were terrifying”, he said. I asked him why he though so. “I don’t know. They were really quiet and menacing. They did not speak. I have spent my life in the police. The eyes never lie. These guys…their eyes were dead. No emotions. Yes, they were terrifying”.

There have been rumors about SG operations in the media. Were they involved in Operation Bluestar? Does SG operate in civilian clothes in Kashmir? No one knows for sure.

RAW has always been extremely secretive. Everything is always on a strictly “need to know” basis. They are paranoid, and for a good reason.

It was 1978 and RAW was desperate to know about the progress Pakistan had made in uranium enrichment. But the Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta in Pakistan was guarded like a fort. There was no way to get information. It was then that a RAW operative in Pakistan hit upon an idea; simple yet brilliant. Scientists came outside the complex to get haircuts. He started collecting hair samples from barbershops in Kahuta. The hair samples of scientists were sent to India. The laboratories here confirmed India’s worst fears. Pakistan had developed the ability to enrich uranium to weapons grade quality.

RAW soon had agents inside Kahuta. Information began to flow. It was during a phone call between Morarji Desai and Gen. Zia ul Haq that the Indian PM inadvertently let slip that India knew what Pakistan had achieved in Kahuta. It was a slip of the tongue. Repercussions followed. Zia ordered a “cleanup” of Kahuta. RAW agents were caught and killed.

In the mid-eighties, RAW had managed neutralize Pakistan’s ISI by setting up two secret units called Counterintelligence – X (CIT-X) for Pakistan and Counterintelligence – J (CIT-J) for Khalistan. ISI used to smuggle drugs and weapons into India using trusted smugglers and routes. RAW corrupted those smugglers and started sending weapons back into Pakistan using them. This program was so successful that ISI stopped interfering in Punjab.

In 1997, RAW suffered a massive setback. Prime Minister IK Gujral wanted peace with Pakistan. And he wanted peace to such an extent that he ordered the closure of CIT-X and CIT-J, as a goodwill gesture towards Pakistan. It is said that hundreds of agents and their identities were compromised. Many RAW assets inside Pakistan were killed. This set back RAW capabilities by decades, a setback from which they have still not recovered. It takes backbreaking work and funds to create an operative or a double agent. And it takes time, trust and bandwidth.

The CIA has gone on record to say that RAW provided valuable inputs leading to the neutralization of Osama bin Laden. It was RAW that sent a message to ISI telling them that President Parvez Musharraf was about to be assassinated. Musharraf was saved just in time. They did this possibly because at that time the Govt. of India wanted Musharraf alive. And it was RAW that launched Operation Chanakya and engineered a vertical split in the Kashmir based terror groups. It created pro-India groups that started decimating the ranks of terrorists.

RAW has been involved in almost each high security operation or incident since the time of its inception, be it Kargil or 26/11. They have trained African intelligence agencies to work against the apartheid regime in South Africa, launched Operation Cactus to save a friendly regime in Maldives from external invasion, and gave accurate and actionable intelligence for the Indian Army to be able to launch Operation Meghdoot in Siachen glacier. It even trained a RAW operative so well that he was able to join the Pakistan Army as an officer and rise up to the rank of a Major.

According to Chanakya, there are four ways of defeating an enemy.

“Saam” is by way of giving counsel and advise and our diplomats follow this path. “Daam” is by way of enticing by money and rewards and our political leaders do this by investing in other countries to buy influence. When the above does not bend people to our will, “Dand” is used. This is by way of using force and is done by the armed forces of India.

But sometimes, India has to use the fourth path advocated by Chanakya, called “Bhedh”. This is by way of deception. RAW follows the fourth path.

You cannot always protect a nation by following the rulebook. Enemies, who mean us mortal harm, surround us. And they do not abide by the norms of ethical conduct of war. They use subterfuge and cunning. They are guided by deceit and lies. Hence our answer must be in the same language of subterfuge and deceit.

On a cold Sunday afternoon in January 2017, I sat down for lunch with a former RAW officer. We were in Connaught Place, New Delhi and we spoke about everything but work. That was the understanding. But I had to ask him one question, and I did. “Sir, why do you do what you do”.

What he said will stay with me forever.

“I follow no rules. Maybe there is no morality in what I do. But my sworn dharma is to protect India. I will make any compromise, go to any length and break any rule of God and man to protect India. I know I will never be acknowledged. My work is such. And I willingly choose to live in the shadows”.

As we finished lunch, I walked him outside the restaurant. We shook hands.

“Jai Hind, Sir”, I said in the time honored Indian Army tradition.

“Jai Hind, Major”, said the old spy.

He put on his golf cap, wrapped a muffler around his neck and walked away slowly, merging into the lazy Sunday crowd.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #ByWayOfDeception #adgpi

A MATTER OF HONOUR

Major AVD Pillay was a soldier’s soldier. His father had served in the army. And he expected his son, Divakaran, to be no less. His family had a cherished tradition of bearing arms, now for the Indian Army, and in centuries past, for the kingdom of Kerala. His family had shed blood for the motherland. The Pillays were Nairs, a fighting clan, and were expected to do no less.

In a school play, 12-year-old son Divakaran was given the part of a primeval Naga warrior. When young Pillay entered the stage, he did not look the part. A Naga going to war is a fearsome thing to behold. He roars like a lion. Major Pillay’s son squeaked. He neither looked Naga, nor Nair.

In a family tradition where young adolescent boys were expected to bear arms and fight the enemy, Major AVD Pillay’s son fell woefully short.

And so, young Divakaran was packed off to spend an entire night at a graveyard.

As we sit in his office in New Delhi, Col. Divakaran Padma Kumar Pillay speaks about the fear and sheer trepidation of that night. The loneliness, the sounds, the howling wind, the haunting expectation of graves creaking open at night and corpses crawling out would have seen grown men run away in sheer terror.

“Gaurav, I almost died out of sheer fear that night. But I did not quit”, says Col. Pillay.

When Major Pillay came in the morning to take young Divakaran home, something had irrevocably changed in the boy. He stopped shuffling and he looked into people’s eyes when he spoke.

It was in 1994 that Manipur, and with it the rest of the North East, descended into violent chaos. The National Socialist Council of Nagaland, an extremist Naga outfit, controlled much of the regions bordering Manipur and Nagaland, collecting taxes and defying the Indian state. Efforts at peace had failed, with an increasingly belligerent and intransigent NSCN quickly increasing the levels of violence. They used a complex mix of perceived wrong, tribal loyalties and fear to keep the people in line.

India was forced to use its final argument. It sent the Indian Army to the North East to establish the writ of the state.

Capt. Divakaran Pillay had specific intelligence that insurgents were planning to blow up a bridge, to hamper the movement of security forces. His orders were clear – locate, engage and neutralize. For four days he led his platoon through sweltering jungle, a fruitless and frustrating search that yielded nothing.

On the morning of the fifth day, he had contact.

As the platoon approached a nondescript village called Longdipabram in the Tamenglong District, insurgents opened up with murderous fire. Capt. Pillay responded. The militants had the upper hand; they could fire where they wished, unmindful of collateral damage.

In counter insurgency, sometimes avoiding collateral damage and civilian casualties means taking a bullet to your chest. It’s a Catch 22 situation.

Capt. Pillay approached a hut in which the militants had found safe haven. As he kicked open the door, a three-round burst from an AK 47 caught him in the elbow and arm. Another single shot slammed into his chest. The militant’s AK jammed. He threw a grenade at Capt. Pillay. Weak with shock and loss of blood, Capt. Pillay kicked the grenade milliseconds before it exploded. The explosion took away a piece of flesh from his leg. Miraculously, the thick door had absorbed the shrapnel.

Another militant hit him on the shoulder and then on the spine. Both shoulder and spine were fractured. As Capt. Pillay lay bleeding, close to death, the encounter raged around him. Many militants were killed. In the cross fire, two children were seriously injured.

His platoon radioed for CASEVAC (Casualty Evacuation) by helicopter. The army responded quickly and the helicopter landed, to evacuate the wounded officer. Capt. Divakaran Pillay has always been different, sometimes a little stubborn to straightjacketed army men. He was known to speak his mind with brutal honesty.

When the pilot came forward to help him into the helicopter, Capt. Pillay did two things, which only those who knew him intimately could have expected.

One, he told the pilot that he still had some strength in him and could cling on to life a little longer and that the children should be evacuated in his place. Two, he ordered his men that if he died, they would carry out no reprisals. The village was under the protection of Capt. DPK Pillay of 8 Battalion, The Brigade of the Guards.

Before fainting from shock and loss of blood, Capt. Pillay heard wails of gratitude from the women and the old men of the village who rushed out and fell at his feet.

For this unique and heroic deed, Capt. Divakaran Pillay was conferred the Shaurya Chakra by a grateful nation.

In 2010, the local Brigade Commander, a friend of the now Colonel Pillay sent a patrol to find out about the village in which this famous encounter had taken place. It was through this army patrol that the villagers found out that their savior was still alive. They immediately requested for a reunion. So, Col. Pillay went to meet the villagers in that small village in Manipur.

He was accorded not just a hero’s welcome. He was welcomed like a village elder. Through his remarkable heroism and generosity, a Keralite had found family in Manipur. The little girl who was shot in the stomach and whose life he had saved by getting her airlifted, was now married and a mother of two. The young boy was a strapping young man.

During the reunion, Col. Pillay saw a familiar looking man in the crowd. That man was amongst the few who had attacked him, almost killing him on that fateful day. Col. Pillay called out to the man and hugged him. In that instant, all was forgiven. All was forgotten.

As the story of his visit to the village spread, the national media made Col. Pillay a celebrity. And, so true to his character, Col. Pillay used this fame to devastating effect. He was now in touch with ministers and senior bureaucrats. So, he used his influence with the Minister of State for Defence for a 23 km long black top road that would connect Longdipabram to District Headquarters at Tamenglong. The Border Roads Organization would construct this road. But Col. Pillay was not done yet. He realized that the road would fall into disrepair after a few years because the BRO did not have the mandate to maintain roads that were not on the border.

Col. Pillay went on a liaison overdrive and a charm offensive. He called and met the high and mighty of Lutyens Delhi. Everyone had heard stories of the young Captain who had courted certain death to save two innocent children. Many people shut doors to his face. But good things happen to good people. Or at least they happen to people who are both good and terribly stubborn.

On 7 October 2016 I received a phone call from Col. Pillay.

“Gaurav, Mr. Nitin Gadkari has approved a 100 km long National Highway, connecting Tamenglong to Peren in Nagaland. And Longdipabram will be a reference point in the NH,” he said excitedly.

70 years after independence, a non-descript village in some remote corner of the North East that no one had heard of suddenly found itself right on a National Highway.

I recently met Col. Pillay in his office again. His three sons were there, all school going fine young lads. Over Dunkin Donut burgers, they introduced themselves – Vikramaditya, Siddharth and Harshvardhan. They told me that their father teaches them Kalaripayattu, the ancient Kerala martial art.

Little Harshvardhan knows what to do in case terrorists attack his house. He knows what he can use as a weapon in case of an emergency.

They boys are shaping up just fine. They have an illustrious father to look up to; a father who understands what it is to wield power with kindness, and who understands that in forgiveness there is courage.

Capt. Divakaran Pillay was willing to die to save two children he did not even know. He forbade vengeance on non-combatants. He used his fame for helping people who were strangers. He embraced a man who tried to kill him. This is not just the story of Capt. Divakaran Pillay.

This is the story of the Indian Army.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #IndianArmy #AMatterOfHonor #DPKPillay #adgpi

 

MALA FIDE INTENT

Our boys have just about returned from across the Line of Control after a very successful surgical strike. The entire nation is delirious with joy; the entire nation, except a few.

Today, I was part of a panel discussion in JNU, interestingly called “Intellectual Terrorism”. The term is self-explanatory, though wide ranging. I will discuss one type of intellectual terrorism here. The proponents of this type of terror are to found in every walk of life, but the roots of this disease are embedded in some institutions of higher learning. More of that some other time.
Karan Johar wants to know if asking Fawad Khan to go back to Pakistan will stop terror. Mahesh Bhatt joins the chorus by saying “stop terrorism, not talks” implying that we must continue to talk to Pakistan. The cricket board will continue to play matches with Pakistan. Certain business houses will continue to do business with Pakistan. All this, while our soldiers are dying on the border.
Will sending Pakistani artists back, stopping cricket and business with Pakistan actually end terror from Pakistan? No, it most certainly will not. But there is an emotion called solidarity. You cannot make films, play cricket and do business as if everything is fine, because it is not. It makes the soldier wonder aloud, “Why should I alone bear the weight of conflict?”
This conflict between India and Pakistan is not the soldier’s personal war. He is dying and killing for you and me. Imagine a situation in which the soldier felt, and behaved, like Karan Johar and Mahesh Bhatt? Imagine if a soldier walked up to his superior and said, “Sir, while I am dying on the Line of Control, these people are going about as if everything is absolutely fine between the two countries.”
How many of you would like it if a soldier felt that this was not his personal war, and he, like Mahesh Bhatt, should walk across the Line of Control and shake hands with a Pakistani soldier? Why should he alone sacrifice for India, when others were making merry?
A soldier will die before the thinks of such treason, but its certainly food for thought, isn’t it?
Patriotism and sacrifice is not the sole responsibility of the soldier. India is Mahesh Bhatt’s country, as much as it is the soldier’s.
The United States boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, and the Russians did likewise when they boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. This is what happens when national interest is held paramount. And this is what must happen now.
For 70 years, Pakistan has been killing Indian citizens. Are we so inured to the pain of our fellow brethren that making a movie or playing a cricket match takes precedence over a soldier’s mourning home?
18 families have been shattered like glass. Not a word for them by our Bollywood royalty, mind you. But the pain of Fawad Khan’s departure is too much to bear, it seems. A tweet in support of Pakistani artists is mandatory.
These directors and producers will have you believe that before Rahat Fateh Ali Khan sang for Bollywood, there was no music of significance in the Hindi film industry. The cricket board is so busy making money that a widow’s silent sob and an orphan’s scream does not matter. What actually matters are day and night matches between India and Pakistan. The most keenly contested sporting event in history, they say; even better than the Ashes.
And the soldiers? Well, as far as they are concerned, they are on another planet, far removed from the glitzy Bollywood studios, and the teak paneled walls of the stately boardrooms of the BCCI. The blood, the mud, the screams and the exploding gunpowder are just distant and inconvenient, not very different from traffic during the Mumbai monsoons. Life must go on.
Its easy to ask for peace when you are a thousand miles away from the Line of Control, and your primary concerns are which party to attend this evening and where to get financing for your next film.

Peace is not a punch line. It is the end result of war.
There is a 10-year-old girl, Aditi, who under stands the nation and its ebbs and flows far better than Mahesh Bhatt and Karan Johar. See her letter attached. Then see the poster made by Mahesh Bhatt, which he so proudly displays.
I leave it to you to decide who speaks for you. My vote goes to Aditi. This little angel has the spirit of a soldier.
The others have mala fide intent.
Jai Hind.

Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)

#MajorGauravArya #adgpi