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

 

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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

 

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