Thursday, May 31, 2012


Lt General SR Ghosh was in a unusually friendly mood while interacting with the media today, the day he hung his uniform in exchange for civvies. Nothing strange in that. There are many like him in the Army. Wary of media during their service, unlike many others who are not afraid to speak to media whenever required. However, Lt Gen Ghosh's tenure must rank among the tenures where the Army Commander kept away from the media like the plague. He must be having good reasons for it, I'm sure.

So when the opportunity came to visit Chandimandir and the Command House for the farewell of Lt Gen Ghosh, I decided to grab it with both hands. Much to the discomfort of several busybodies in Command HQs, as I was to learn later. But one could not care less for such bumblebees. So it was after nearly seven or eight years that I set foot in Command House. Last time it had been for the farewell of Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman, one of the most media friendly Army Commanders who came to Chandimandir and never got a single bad word written or said about him. Forthright and truthful, he need not have feared media.

The familiar spectacle unfolded with the same military precision as has been done on countless earlier occasions. The wreath laying ceremony at War Memorial, the inspection of Guard of Honour, the Buggy Ride, the high tea at Command House. Nothing changes.

Every occupant of the Command House wants to leave his or her mark and so did Mrs Bulbul Ghosh. She has her name imprinted on the glass wall of an air conditioned gazebo behind the house overlooking the lush green lawn. This time I did not get a chance to enter the house so I cannot comment on the improvements made therein.

But the most interesting aspect of the entire affair was the media interaction with the retiring GOC-in-C, Western Command. Somewhat reluctant to give a soundbite, yet the General did make his way where we requested him to come. It was there that the latent, pent-up fear of the media in some pompous souls finally arose from the dark depths it was nestling in.

A two star General, whose name I forget now, tried to interject and give his unsought advice on what kind questions may be asked of the outgoing Army Commander or rather what sort of questions may not be asked. He was visibly unhappy when informed that the media personnel present there were professionals who need not be told how to go about their task. This again was not quite to his liking and this was reflected on the contours of his face. He again said something about doing his job ( which I am sure should not entail speaking for his Army Commander) and this time he was firmly told to mind his own business. At this stage The Army Commander also restrained him else things would have turned decidedly ugly. The Army Commander then went on to answer the questions in good humour and with confidence.

Anyway, it was an interesting interlude to an otherwise dull engagement. 'More loyal to the King than the King himself', is a syndrome which afflicts almost every profession and the Army is not the only one.

Perhaps the most telling comment of the day was made by Lt Gen SR Ghosh. Army Commanders come and go, but you from the media stay, he said. That is right General. We have seen many come and go. Some with grace and humility, some with pompousness and hauteur. Change is the only constant. And I am already looking forward to the tenure of the new Army Commander, Lt Gen Sanjeev Chhachra, from Rajput Regiment. It will be an interesting next two years or so, I am sure. And maybe we get another chance to be at the Command House when he retires !  

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Here is the Show Cause notice given to Col G Srikumar, former Commanding Officer of 3 Corps Intelligence and Surveillance Unit and now posted in a Infantry Division, which lead to the eventual award of 'Severe Displeasure' to him by the Chief of Army Staff, General VK Singh.

The officer has approached the Armed Forces Tribunal bring these documents, thus, to the public arena. It is important to note that Para 3 of the Show Cause notice is missing which is a legal infirmity. Also, the mandatory 30 days reply period, which can be cut down to 15 days in exceptional cases, has been deliberately truncated to 10 days so that Gen VK Singh could award the censure before retirement.

Interestingly, the officer was on leave and has still been held responsible for an incident which took place in his absence! Should not the officiating CO be responsible for this? How have the BGS (Ops) and the Corps Cdr been held responsible for the lapse of a Havildar or at the most, the OiC of the raid? Is it a clear case of vindictiveness or that of instant justice? You decide.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


One is a little perturbed by the relative lack of comment by retired senior Army officers in the various publications on the Nyoma incident and the implications/fall-out it has had on the service in particular and the image of the officer cadre in particular.

Ordinarily, the Generals-turned-columnists are rapid to address any issue in the public domain which pertains to the defence forces/Army, but this time around, their silence is deafening. Is it a studied silence or is it a case of closing the ranks in view of incident which they find is too shameful to refer to? In any case, many would take refuge in the plea that "it was too early to comment", or the more common "let the inquiry finish, let the facts come out". In many other instances where they are quick to write a 2000 word article, such pleas are curiously missing, even when circumstances say they could have been circumspect.

This post on the blog is not about the incident. The details have been in the public domain for a long time now and the bare facts of the case are known to all. How it happened, why it happened and how a cover-up was launched to pass it off as as a"scuffle". Motives are being ascribed to anybody who questions the official line, but then many of us are quite used to it and it now is a great source of mirth to us.

But the silence of the intelligentsia is indeed perplexing. It goes on to show, and, to me at least, prove that the retired officers think-tank pick and choose which issue they want to raise and which they want to conveniently ignore. Issues or incidents where there is very less scope for a damage control exercise, they just side-step with an ease which would put a Gentleman cadet on drill square to shame.

It was left to just two retired officers, Lt Gen Raj Kadyan and Lt Gen RK Sawhney to take up the barrage of questions on television while the regular faces on TV remained a safe distance away. Both officers did a commendable job, needless to say, in putting forth the facts as per their perspective.

But for an average person, a layman, so to speak, the view of the 'other side of the hill' is missing in this incident which took place at Nyoma. It should be interesting to note how the military intelligentsia reacts to this and what faults it finds or what recommendations it has to make. But sadly, we are bereft of their take on the issue at hand.

Reams can be written about the age controversy of the outgoing COAS, words in their thousands can be typed out in belittlement of the media when it takes on the wrongs that afflict the military today, scorn can be heaped page after page on the politico-bureaucrat nexus which is damaging the military, but stone deaf silence prevails when it is time to do some introspection on how a section of our officer cadre in the Army is treating our jawans.

Silence is the only recourse when the situation demands that some urgent analysis and introspection be done on the shortcomings of the training system and mentoring of our officers which allow aberrations to take place in individuals who mistreat their subordinates and assault their own CO.

Make no doubt about it, this silences impinges upon the credibility of the military intelligentsia who address the issues pertaining to the military in print and electronic media. Keeping mum will not help, hunkering down will not make the problem go away. And as Vinod Mehta says in his autobiography, "Credibility is like virginity, it can only be lost once".   

Sunday, May 13, 2012


I received the following letter on e-mail from Col SK Aggarwal, a former JAG officer and a friend since many years. I am re-producing it verbatim so that readers of this blog get an idea as to how service officers feel about this incident. (Pic courtesy

 "The clash which took place in 226 Field Regiment in Laddakh is a very serious matter which is being downplayed by Army as usual. Senior Army Officers in command will never learn a lesson from history. Thank GOD it was not an Infantry Battlion equipped with arms and ammunition. Otherwise many dead bodies would have been lying in the field to be air lifted.

The Commanding Officer Col Prasad Kadam and the Bty Cdr behaved immaturely considering themselves to be above law. If Sahayak had misbehaved with his wife, he should have placed the soldier under arrest, reported to CO and subjected to trial. He had no right to collectively beat him. It is nothing but collective insubordination and the unit should be disbanded .

All those involved in the offences should be attached to other units out of 3 Inf Div and subjected to trial by Court Martial. It is a classic case of command failure up the channel. Court of Inquiry is an eye wash and will suppress the truth and only some soldiers will be tried and awarded punishment and case closed. Thereafter Army Chief and Commanders will forget the case. They have forgotten how four officers including CO Col Sahota were killed in 8 JAT in 1986 and the case of Mutiny in GR Bn involving Maj Kukrety. 45 Armoured Regt clashes case involving a number of officers and others has still not been taken to logical conclusion even after more than one year. It still at the stage of recording of Summary of Evidence.

Such incidents are taking place because Officers are arrogant and COs are behaving like dictators. When matter is brought to the notice of Senior Commanders, they take no action. With rise in education standard of soldiers and changing socio-economic conditions. officers training system needs to be modified.

Colonial thinking has no place in today's Army. Unless the Army Officers change their mind set and misuse of manpower is stopped at all levels, such incidents will continue to happen. The morale of soldiers is lowest today and discontentment level is very high. The incident of 226 Field Regiment should be taken seriously and the unit should be disbanded without any exception. It is a wake call to Chief of the Army Staff and Ministry of Defence. Case should be thoroughly investigated and all guilty be accounted for. Those found guilty after trial should be subjected to exemplary punishment. Discipline cannot be compromised. With this incident image of Army has nose dived for which GOC 3 INF DIV onwards are collectively responsible and accountable."
 E-9/504/GH 79
MOB. 09815558983