Monday, April 29, 2013


Access to exclusive documents has now for the first time revealed the sequence of events which led to the unprecedented brawl between officers and jawans of 226 Field Regiment in Nyoma in Ladakh in May last year. The three-member inquiry was conducted by Brig Ajay Talwar, Colonel Ajit Singh and Colonel NK Kanotra.

The documents are a part of the Army’s Court of Inquiry held after the shocking incident. As a result of the fall-out of this inquiry, an unprecedented 168 troops of the regiment will be facing a general court martial. They include four officers, including the commanding officer of the regiment, Col P Kadam, 17 Junior Commissioned Officrs and 147 jawans.

The documents accessed include crucial statements of key witnesses in the court of inquiry which has led the Army to find out the exact reasons behind the break-down of discipline in the regiment which was deployed for field firing in Ladakh. These statements include that of the Commanding Officer, Col Prasad Kadam, wife of a Major, a jawan accused of rape, depositions of medical experts and a crucial report of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), Chandigarh.

The most crucial of all is the testimony of the wife of a Major who has alleged that one jawan of the regiment attempted to rape her in the absence of her husband. This alleged attempted rape has become the bed-rock of the inquiry and it has been suggested by various witnesses that everything else that followed in the regiment was as a result of this.

The lady, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, has described in detail how the jawan detailed as Sahayak to her husband tried to rape her. She stated this in categorical terms when specifically asked by members of the Court of Inquiry. The lady also told the court that while fighting off the jawan she had hit him with a torch as a result of which he bled. The evidence of bleeding on the lady’s garments were sent to CFSL Chandigarh for matching the samples given by the Sahayak and the report of the laboratory stated that the possibility of the samples coming from the lady and the Sahayak could not be excluded.

In his deposition to the court, the Jawan accused of attempting to rape the lady has stoutly denied the same and has attributed the bleeding and blood stain to an injury sustained while moving he luggage of the officer and his wife. He has instead alleged that he entered the room to switch off the kerosene heater and found the door unlatched. He alleges that the lady was changing her clothes at the time, without securing the door, and got angry with him and abused him. The Sahayak has alleged in his statement that he was beaten up by three officers later in the evening. It is alleged that it was this beating and denial of initial medical aid to the jawan which enraged other jawans of the regiment and caused them to turn on their officers.

Witnesses have also testified that enraged jawans raised slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai, Inqulab Zindabad, 226 Field Regiment ki Jai on the occasion. They also raised slogans like ‘Raksha Mantri ko Bulaya jae” and “Media ko bulaya jae” when two senior officers visited to pacify the angry jawans. They also demanded that the three offices who beat the jawan should be handed over to them.

During the course of the inquiry the CO, Col Prasad Kadam, also revealed that there was permission to move the wives of the officers only till Darbuk and not till Nyoma. Col Kadam admitted that he allowed them to be moved to Nyoma because they would have been “alone” in Darbuk. Col Kadam also gave details of how he was assaulted by troops of his regiment and hit with stones till he lost consciousness.

Various witnesses have made statements to the effect that three officers badly thrashed the Sahayak. It is, perhaps, keeping in mind all these circumstances that the Army has ordered the court martial of these officers along with the CO.

Meanwhile, the Army has ordered the Summary of Evidence in this case as the next step leading, eventually, to a trial of all the accused officers and jawans.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013


The issue of various state police forces, and para-military forces too, wearing combat fatigues has been much debated over the past few years. The para-military forces are now commonly deployed in counter-insurgency operations and need to wear disruptive pattern uniforms for obvious reasons. In fact, all para-military forces, be it BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF or SSB, have evolved their own pattern of disruptive pattern which is absolutely distinct from the one used by the Indian Army.

The Army too has gone in for a standard pattern of the fatigues which bear the insignia of the Indian Army distinctly on the cloth at regular intervals. This was done in order to ensure that no one is able to ape the Army fatigues, especially in counter-insurgency operations, where militants often dressed up as Army personnel and attacked military targets.

However, much to my surprise I saw the same uniform being worn by women cops of the Punjab Police. The occasion as the launch of s special women's task force launched by the Punjab government to counter crimes against women, especially eve-teasing in front of schools and colleges. The Punjab Deputy Chief Minister, Sukhbir Singh Badal, launched the special task force in the presence of the Director General of Punjab Police, Sumedh Singh Saini, and other senior police officials.

(Note the IndArmy insignia on the sleeve)

It was indeed shocking to see that the Punjab Police had copied the disruptive pattern of the Army down to the last T. The uniforms even had the Indian Army watermark, complete with the insignia. It appears that the Punjab Police acquired the cloth wholesale from some vendor who also supplies to the Army and then went ahead and got the uniforms stitched for its women cops.   

These women cops are supposed to be 'Commandos', given the flashes they wear on their arms. These 'Commandos' go around on scooters and motorcycles, wearing these combat fatigues to deter eve-teasers and those who may harass women. While the intention is noble, it is not understood why they had to wear Indian Army fatigues to achieve the same. Is it because Khaki is not macho enough? Is it because Khaki does not inspire the same awe and respect that olive green does? Or is it simply the brain-child of someone who thought he could get away by aping Army uniform? Whatever may be the case, it is an offence which has been committed and the Army must take note of it and protest.

It is all the more interesting that the contingent of this special task force which was flagged off also had women cops dressed in Khakis and in a new blue coloured uniform too. Their task is also similar to these  'Commandos' but for some unknown reason they do not get to don the fatigues.

While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, the Punjab Police seems to be taking it too far. The DGP's flag wears three stars on it. A replica of what the Army has started doing to reflect the status of the flag-ranked officer. The previous DGP was a step ahead. He even had a Ashoka emblem on the flag along with three stars trying to bring himself to the equivalent of an Army Commander or GOC-in-C. Mercifully, the present incumbent has refrained from doing so.

Western Command must raise this issue in the next military liaison conference and sensitise the state government and Punjab Police on sanctity of uniforms.

Monday, April 15, 2013


"SANAWAR: Keeping the century old bonding alive with the glorious past of Indian armed forces, Lawrence School Sanawar on Monday unveiled, in its premises, the bust of Major William Stephen Rakes Hodson who has the distinction of raising Indian Army's prestigious 'Hodson horse'".

It was this innocuous story, buried in the inside pages of The Times of India which made me put down my cup of tea this morning and take note. Apart from the fact that the reporter has faithfully reproduced the press note issued by the school/Army down to the last sycophantic word, the fact that a murderer has once again been glorified disturbed me.

I have written previously in this blog on how many persons, of considerable eminence, have considered it wrong for Major Hodson to find a place of prominence in the the name of one of the most illustrious armoured regiments of the Indian Army. In fact, I had widely quoted Lt Gen SK Sinha, former Vice Chief of Army Staff, who had written in his memoirs of his attempts to convince 4 Horse to get rid of the name of Maj Hodson from their regimental crest, but to no avail.

Several vitriolic replies were received on the subject and most of them have been printed. That however does not deter me from expressing my views again on the preposterous bust-unveiling which has taken place in Sanawar by a Lt General who is GOC 9 Corps. I am more outraged by the fact that the only other bust in the school is that of the young martyr of the 1971 war, 2/Lt Arun Khetarpal, PVC and that the murderer Hodson now gets a place of pride next to him.

What could be more dichotomous than having two busts which are absolutely at cross-purposes with each other. One that of a national hero who laid down his life defending the country 40 years ago and another of a colonial master who repressed the First War of Independence with as much force as he could.

Hodson may indeed have played a role in establishing the school at Sanawar but what purpose does it serve to display his bust in the school? Does the school tell its students about the dubious role played by him while putting down the first Indian War of Independence in 1857 when he murdered the two sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar? Do they inform the students of the dubious nature of his character as stated by Lt Gen SK Sinha in his book? Why should he be glorified at all. His association with the school, as with the regiment, should be a footnote in history of both and need not be highlighted beyond that point. His association with both is a fact of history and must be acknowledged as such but to glorify him is sickening.

But the inherent flaws in our thinking and how we revere anything British when it comes to traditions in our schools and regimental institutions have led to the unveiling of this bust. It is time which acts come under scrutiny and are derided for whatever they are worth. These should not go uncommented or unnoticed. It is nothing but a misplaced sense of regimental honour when the name of a murderer is not removed from the regimental crest and when the officers of the regiment go about establishing the bust of the same murderer in schools.

They will not be allowed to manipulate history. Villains can never be heroes. Even if they have armoured regiments named after them.