Friday, December 31, 2010

Why did the "Khukri" have to sink??

INS Khukri, was a Type IV ASW Frigate belonging to the 14 Squadron of the Western Fleet of the Indian Navy during the 1971 War with Pakistan. She was the only Indian sea vessel that was destroyed by the enemy, and sank off the coast of Diu, on the night of December 9, 1971, taking down with her about 178 sailors and 18 officers including Khukri's Captain - Mahendra Nath Mullah.

The sinking of INS Khukri continues to haunt the minds of military strategists and planners even today. Because, this was the only instance where the otherwise highly effective planning and tactics of the Indian Navy like those used to sink the Ghazi and for the Karachi attacks, did not come into play.  

I have tried to put together, a few critical factors that led to this incident which was a huge irreparable loss:

1. Pakistan Navy's strength lay in her new "Daphne Class" submarines, three in number, acquired recently from France (and funded by the United States). The strength of the submarines was in her sensors and armament which was regarded as 'superior to anything in the Indian Navy's inventory'

Soon after the war started, certain Pakistani communication intercepted by the Indians established two facts - a)that these communications were submarine transmissions and b)that these were originating from an area around Diu, which was the main assembly areas for Indian warships to be deployed  for missile attacks. Naturally this caused a lot of concern to the Indian Navy.  

The 14th squadron, consisting of 'Khurki, Kirpan and 'Kuthar' has sailed along with the western fleet on December 2, 1971. Soon after the Kuthar encountered a boiler burst, and had to return to Bombay for repairs. She was towed back by the Kirpan, with Khukri acting as escort. During  this journey, the Khurki reported encountering a submarine, and attacking it. While this fact was never established, it further strengthened suspicion that Pakistani submarines were in the vicinity. Consequently, a "Hunter-Killer" operation was ordered the main objective being to seek and destroy and Pakistani vessels.

The first mistake - was deploying the 14 squadron for this operation. These old frigates were pitted against modern submarines which had a sonar range twice that of the Khurki and Kirpan. Additionally with the Kuthar damaged the squadron strength was sub-optimal.

Khukri and Kirpan sailed nevertheless, to take up the difficult task of a 'hunter -killer' operation in an area 50 miles by 55 miles off the coast of Diu.

PNS Hangor the submarine responsible for the sinking of the Khukri, lay patiently in wait, near Diu. Hangor picked up 2 contacts on her sonar at extreme range , in the early hours of the morning of December 9 when she was off the Kathiawar coast. When they were identified as warships from their sonar transmissions, the submarine began pursuit.  By the evening on December 9, she was able to make out the pattern of  movement of the two Indian ships, by tracking them with her advanced sensors and concluded that the ships were carrying out a rectangular anti-submarine search. By forecasting their movement, the submarine succeeded by 7 pm, in taking up a tactically advantageous position in the path of the patrolling frigates.

The second mistake - was the linear path followed by the frigates covering a rather small area instead of a 'zig zag' course. The range of the frigates that were moving at a speed of 12 knots was now closing and the Hangor prepared for the attack.  The Khukri was still not aware of the submarine's presence and continued doing slow speed on a steady course on a narrow weave which was a flagrant violation of the anti-submarine doctrine.

The third mistake - was that the Khukri continued to do 10-12 knots instead of the normal 15 knots required not only to seek and destroy the enemy but also for evasion.The reason for this was the attachment of a special device by the Khukri's electrical officer, Lt. V.K Jain, to the Type 14's 170/174 sonar to slightly increase it's detection range. This new device developed with assistance from BARC, was approved by Admiral Kohli to be embarked in the Khukri

The fourth mistake - the two frigates were being supported by 'Sea King' helicopters which were anti submarine weapon platforms with torpedoes and highly effective sonars. They were therefore powerful deterrents to the Pakistani submarines. As long as they were there in the vicinity of the Khukri and the Kirpan, PNS Hangor would never have dared to surface or to attack.

The Sea Kings had departed from the scene of action between 5 pm and 6 pm, because their reliefs failed to arrive, and they were running low of fuel. The helicopters left, and the frigates were assured that the relief choppers would arrive within an hour.

The relief helicopters failed to arrive, and this gave Hangor the opportunity she was looking for. 

Hangor fired a down-the-throat shot with a homing torpedo at the Northerly ship (Kirpan) at about 8 pm. The torpedo however misfired and Kirpan detected the torpedo going past her and fired her mortars, which after a few salvoes being fired, became non-operational. Without losing time, Hangor turned towards the Khukri. Hangor fired a second torpedo, which exploded under the Khukri's oil tanks. A few minutes later Kirpan returned for an attack in a course that brought her in line with the submarine. Hangor fired a third torpedo and immediately turned away and exited at maximum speed

According to the Pakistani version, the torpedo exploded near the stern of the Kirpan, badly damaging it and putting her out of action though in reality, Kirpan was not scratched and returned for rescue operations along with the vessel, INS Katchal. The Indian version maintains that both the torpedoes hit the Khukri.

Kirpan was faced with a dilemma -should she immediately lower her boats and rescue the survivors of the Khukri which would leave her vulnerable to the submarine or should she leave the area, repair her defective mortars and return with an additional ship to commence the rescue and hunting operations. Under the circumstances, Kirpan made the wise choice of doing the latter.

This action however generated some discussions on the ethics of such tactics for quite some time in Indian navy circles.

INS Khukri sank soon after.

Whether the 'mistakes' listed above were indeed mistakes - only military strategists can comment on. They certainly explain the circumstances and conditions that led to the sinking of INS Khukri - the only Indian ship to be destroyed during the war.

Inputs from
1. 'The Sinking of INS Khukri - Survivors' Stories' by Maj Gen Ian Cardozo

2. 'Loss of INS Khukri' by B. Harry (Bharat

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Courage Under Fire - II

Captain Mullah was commanding a sea vessel of the Indian Navy - a frigate "INS Khukri" during the war. His ship was part of a squadron that was tasked to seek and destroy Pakistani ships and submarines.

On the night of December 9, 1971, INS Khukri was hit by torpedoes fired from a Pakistani submarine, and started sinking. Realizing this, Captain Mullah ordered to crew - some 300 officers and sailors - to abandon ship. He also realized that many men were trapped in the sinking vessel below the deck.

Unmindful of this personal safety, and choosing to stay with the ship when he could have opted to save himself, he took it upon himself to personally supervise the rescue of the trapped men.

As Genl Cardozo related the story - "being the man that he was, he knew that it was not right for him to save himself while his sailors went to a watery grave".

In those final moments when the ship sank, Captain Mullah helped as many as he could, staying on the bridge of the ship till the end.

The INS Khukri sank some 45 nautical miles off the coast of Diu. Captain Mullah went down with the vessel he commanded, and laid down his life. In the words of Commandeer Manu Sharma, a batchmate of Captain Mullah, and one of the crew of that ill fated ship that night, had been forced to jump off the ship, by Captain Mullah, and was swimming to safety when he caught the last glimpse of the "Khukri" In Sharma's words - "`The bow of the ship was pointing upwards at an angle of eight degrees and sinking slowly. I got a glimpse of Captain Mulla sitting on his chair and hanging on to the railing. He was still smoking a cigarette."

Captain Mullah's last action and behavior were seen as an act of gallantry and courage in keeping with the highest traditions of the Indian Millitary forces. A grateful Natione awarded him the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously.

Why did Captain Mullah choose to go down with his sinking ship and meet his watery grave? Was it some silly, centuries old Naval custom?

Many have attempted to explain why Captain Mullah gave up his life by choice when he could have save himself easily.

Major General Ian Cardozo who authored the book "The Sinking of INS Khukri -Survivors' Stories" described Captain Mahendra Nath Mullah's action -

"Captain Mullah's story brings into focus the outstanding character qualities of a man that sets him part from other mortals. The manner in which he died upholds the highest the traditions of the armed forces and exemplifies the upper limits of cold courage. He believed in the old Army motto - that the nation comes first, that the men he commands come next, and his safety comes last. This naval officer made this come true and made it an example for all of us to follow. In this brave and heroic action, Captain Mulla teaches us not only how to live, but how to die"

Ameeta Mullah Wattal - Captain Mullah's elder daughter, who was but a teenager when she lost her father says this - "I have often wondered what made my father decide to go down with his ship after it was torpedoed during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. Did he do it because he wanted his name enshrined in history books as a man of valour? Did he do it because it was part of an old archaic naval tradition, or did he accompany his ship into the sea because he felt it was the right thing to do?"

Ameeta was perhaps right. For Captain Mullah - this was the only right thing to do..

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Courage Under Fire - I

It was the 14th of December 1971, a little over 39 years ago. Many of my generation cannot forget that year however. A war was on.

At 8 am on that fateful day, the outlying OPs (observation posts) just outside the Srinagar airfield flashed a warning about an incoming air raid by Pakistani F-85 Sabre jets. A young Sikh Officer Nirmaljit, and his fellow fighter pilot Ghumman -both Gnat pilots,  were scrambled to intercept the incoming strike. Ten precious seconds were lost in getting ATC clearance which never came. Both pilots took off - four minutes after the first OP warning, and just when the first of the incoming Sabres was commencing its dive over the airfield.

Ghumman was the first to become airborne followed by Nirmaljit, who almost immediately was out of visual contact of the ATC, obscured by the dust and smoke thrown up by the exploding Pakistani bombs.

By now, Nirmaljit was overcome totally with raw courage. There were six sabres and he decided to take them on, while still alone. Ghumman tried in vain to assist him, but could not be vectored onto Nirmal's position due to bad visibility.

All along Nirmal kept the ATC abreast with the action. He got behing two Sabres, and before long let out a gunburst, shooting down one of the enemy aircraft.

Next he engaged two more aircraft starting a chase in a wide circle. Howeve, five Sabres were too much for a lone Gnat. For not one moment though, did Nirmal let that thought cross his mind, that he was completely overcome by sheer numbers.

The ATC heard a Gnat gun burst, followed by a short gun busrt from the Sabre, and again a very long Sabre gun burst.

'I think I've been hit' was Nirmal's last radio transmission from his Gnat.

His plane crashed soon after. Flying Offier Nirmaljit Singh lost his life valiantly fighting against overwhelming odds.

For his supreme valour in the face of the enemy, Flg Officer Sekhon was awarded the Param Vir Chakra, the only awarded ever, to an Air Force Officer.

Nimaljit Singh Sekhon was only 26 years old when he laid down his life for his Country. When he died, he and his wife Manjit Kaur had been married for only a few months.

On the 38th anniversary of the 1971 Bangladesh War, let us salute this brave young officer, and promise ourselves, never to forget the likes of him. 

Thursday, November 04, 2010


Tomorrow is Deepwali - the Indian festival of lights. There is an atmosphere of festivities everywhere. The festival symbolises brightness and light, and so millions of homes across the Country, are brightly lit up for the past so many days to pay obeisance to God Almighty for attainment of health, wealth, knowledge, peace, valor and fame.

Diwali also symbolises removing darkness - in the form of ignorance and all negative forces -  wickedness, violence, lust, anger, envy, greed, bigotry, fear, injustice, oppression and suffering,  by spreading light in the form of knowledge.

Deepawali also symbolises a 'new beginning'
The festivities reach a peak. People shop for new clothes and jewellery, and sweets and gifts to exchange with near and dear ones. Households are refurbished and cleaned, and then lit up brightly. Relatives and friends reunite this time of the year -if not at anytime else. There is happiness all around.

On Deepawali this year - as in all the previous years - I send my sincerest good wishes to all my friends and colleagues. May each one of them become a brightly lit lamp, and spread light all around them.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A General remembers (Excerpts from General Sundarji's book -"Of Some Consequence - A Soldier Remembers..."

Here's an interesting anecdote that I came across in General Sundarji's book, which is an autobiography, and could only be published after his death:

‘It was the winter of 1951. There was a function on a Sunday, at Headquarters Eastern Command which was then at Lucknow. General Sriganesh was to attend and an air force plane (a Devon) has been lain on. Apart form the Army Commander Major Generals Thimayya, Thorat and Chopra had requested for a lift and were promised a seat. I was to be the fifth passenger. We were all at Palam airport in Delhi on that Sunday, morning and just before take-off a brigadier from the Army Service Corps approached the boss and requested for a seat, and so I was unceremoniously taken off the plane. As a sop I was told that I need not come to receive the boss that evening, and could enjoy my Sunday! After we saw the plane off, Group Captain Rajaram, DFC who was the stations commander of Palam said to me In Tamil – “Sundar don’t be disappointed. Now that you are not required in the evening, I shall take you out to dinner. I’ll pick you up from your mess.”

That evening, Rajaram was in my room and we were having a drink, when Palam airport tracked him down and said that the Devon in which the VIPs were flying out of Lucknow, has lost contact with the control tower, soon after take off and was still out of communication. We cancelled our dinner outing and went straight back to the control tower where we got a disturbing piece of news from the Lucknow tower.

A railway signalman had seen a plane burning and down some distance away from his signal post. The railways informed the civil authorities and a few army search parties were sent out in the general area. Anxious wives of the passengers started bombarding the control tower with queries.

Air Marshal Sir Gerald Gibbs the air chief arrived and took charge. General Cariappa the Army Chief kept in touch telephonically. At about two in the morning, a message came from Lucknow that contact had been made and all aboard the crashed plane were alive and well. With a whoop, I rushed to the telephone, to give Mrs. Sriganesh and other wives the good news.

The next morning there was a message from General Cariappa to all these generals which said, I remember, “You naughty little children, so many of you should not have got on to the same pram. I as your mummy, thank the Lord that you had a competent nanny pushing the pram and who managed to save you!”

Tailpiece: Squadron Leader Suhas Biswas, the pilot got the Ashok Chakra for his handling of the situation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A lesson in Kashmir history for Ms. Arundhati Roy...

Ok - I see that we cannot simply ignore Arundhati Roy. She has that knack of gaining publicity because that's what she thrives on. Her 'raison d'etre'....

According to her, Kashmir was never an integral part of India. This comment convinced me ever more, that there is really no substance behind this person and the cause she stands for, side by side with Mr. Geelani.

I also think that Ms. Arundhati Roy is fairly ignorant. Most probably, when she sat in Class in school, she didn't pay attention to the History lessons. For her benefit - let me summarise the facts and break the myth that the likes of Ms Roy would make believe.

On the eve of India's independence there were as many as 568 'princely states' in India - the 'Princely States'. Some of these were Hyderabad, Gwalior, Baroda and Kashmir. None of them were part of India.

When the British decided to leave, in 1947, the left two choices with the States - to affiliate with Pakistan or with India. Given a real choice most States would have liked to remain independent, but they were forced to make a choice. Their decision was made on basis of the religious domination of the majority of its citizens and the geographic location.

The State of Kashmir was the ideal candidate to join Pakistan - given its geographical contiguity with the newly formed Country, as well as the religious domination of its citizens. The Maharaja of Kashmir however was a Hindu. More importantly, he wanted 'azaadi' which really was not an available option. He continued to procrastinate, and remained non-committal.

Pakistan viewed this as a ploy jointly contrived by the British and the Indians to usurp Kashmir away from her. So in October 1947, Pakistan invaded Kashmir. The invasion was not direct but more 'Kargil like' in the sense the invaders were 'Pushtoon' tribals fully supported morally and otherwise by Pakistan. The invaders reached the outskirts of Srinagar which was on the verge of being taken over.

A panicky Maharajah Hari Singh called India for help. The Indian Government made it clear that legally, India could do nothing, unless the Maharajah acceded Kashmir to India. Left with no option, Maharajah Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, sent by the Government. No sooner than this was done, the Indian forces landed in Srinagar. The invaders were beaten back out of Srinagar. However by this time they managed to gain control over about one third of the State. The part that India terms as Pakistan Occupied Kahmir or POK.

With this instrument of accession signed, Kashmir became an integral part of India, in the full legal manner. This instrument of accession was the same one that all the other States signed when they became part of the Indian Union. Let Ms Arundhati Roy understand this completely.  This is a historical fact that Kashmir became an integral part of India in 1947.

When Pakistan invaded Kashmir, Prime Minister Nehru appealed to the UN for help in forcing Pakistan to pull back its troops. The UN responded by calling for an immediate 'cease fire' and also called for a 'plebiscite' to determine the wishes of the Kashmiris.

The advice of Sardar Patel as well as the Army Commanders to Nehru, to not call a cease fire unless all occupied territory in Kashmir was vacated by the Pakistanis, was ignored.Nehru went ahead and made the 'fatal' mistake of  not only announcing an immediate  cease fire but also agreeing to 'plebiscite'. 

Those with an ulterior motive like to focus on this one fact that India has not conducted a plebiscite till date and continues to ignore the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

But the reality is this. The UN resolution is a written document and very very clearly states that the first and foremost 'pre condition' for plebiscite to be conducted is that Pakistan will first withdraw from all areas of Kashmir as that it occupied after October 22, 1947. In other words all Pakistani soldiers and tribesmen were expected to pull out from all areas of Kashmir as it existed prior to October 22, 1947.

Its a fact that Pakistan did not vacate what is now called 'POK' It was Pakistan who violated the spirit of the UN resolution, whereas it is India that is criticised - sometimes by its own people.

For plebiscite to be conducted today, would Pakistan consider vacating POK - 63 years after it forcibly and illegally occupied it? The answer is anybody's guess. When this is not possible, neither is plebiscite.

The UN resolution is as good as dead and buried. The solution to the Kashmir problem lies anywhere else but not in 'self determination'

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Do you know the CISF?

These are the guys in uniform, who you see at secuirity check points at the airport - everytime you take a domestic or an international flight. They are the ones, who frisk you, check your baggage on the x-ray machine, and politely ask you to remove your lighter or batteries from your cabin baggage.

They are also the soldiers in uniform who guard the Delhi Metro. You will see them manning all security check points at the Metro stations. You encounter them for maybe five seconds - occasionally they may have frisked you, and you are on your way.

What you probably might not know is that the Central Industrial Security Force, established in 1969 with the primary objective to provide security to Public Sector Undertakings in India has, over the years become a premier multi-skilled security agency of the country, mandated to provide security to major critical infrastructure installations of the country in diverse areas. CISF is currently providing security cover to nuclear installations, space establishments, airports, seaports, power plants, sensitive Government buildings and ever heritage monuments. What is a matter of pride for the force is that it has played the role of a consultant in security matters, to the private sector has also. 

These are the guys who aren't the normal 'cops' - you wouldn't have seen them behave like the local police.Instead, they go about performing their job with cool and calm efficiency, amidst tremendous pressure of all kinds - huge amounts of traffic in terms of incoming and outgoing passengers, and the ever lasting threat of a terror incident.

The next time you undertake a journey by the Metro in Delhi, or by air, remember - that it is the CISF that makes travel safe for you - always and every time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

DELHI: Doubters should just get out there and enjoy the Games.

We heard of the huge amount of criticism of the Commonwealth Games in the foreign media. Here's something different that Peter Lalor of 'The Australian' wrote...

This has been contributed by an old School mate David Conquest who lives in Australia.

"The Commonwealth Games are apparently under way. Not without
glitches and no doubt there will be a few more to come, but for pity's sake
what do people want?

India is a Country with more than a billion people. It is chaotic, eccentric, colourful and unlike anywhere else in the world. You reckon Australia
would run smoothly with that many people?
It can be dirty and is often frustrating, but it is also endlessly fascinating.
Every moment something new and enthralling happens. If you can't find
interest here, you should check your pulse.

You get the feeling from all the hoo-ha of recent weeks that people expect
life to be lived inside a shopping mall. Bland, secured and air-conditioned.
That goes for athletes, media and officials. Cue the mundane. Let the
frightened triumph.

Journalists were given hostile environment training before they came.
Please. It's that sort of thinking that has a growing number of us huddled
in gated communities.

Yes it is nice when the traffic flows smoothly, but really when it is a cow,
an elephant or even a dead body on the back of a Ganges-bound rickshaw
it is worth the price of the inconvenience (this won't happen in Delhi).

The sports editor of a major newspaper based in Delhi vented her
frustration recently. Her email box was full of questions from quivering
potential visitors. Could they go outside, or was the danger of being
kidnapped too high? Could they ask a woman directions, or would that be
culturally insensitive? Do women need male escorts?

"I want to tell them that they all have to wear a burka and stay in their
rooms," she sighed with frustration. Delhi is a modern city. You can get McDonald's there, don't worry.


Although one suspects that the sight of a menu that features such strange 2
delights as McAloo Tikka might have them running back to the Vegemite
sandwiches they packed. Just in case.

The pathetic hysteria before the games reveals the naivety and lack of
urbanity of so many.

Too many Australians have lived sheltered lives down here on an isolated
island with no neighbours at the borders and only redback spiders to fear.


The xenophobia in the air is extraordinary. Are we scared of the people
who arrive by boat, or do we resent them? We seem far more comfortable
with the asylum-seekers who come on aeroplanes.


India has an order within it that takes a long time to see it or appreciate it.
The other morning Justin Langer and some other members of the cricket
support staff were out running in Chandigarh. The local police insist on
tailing them in a Jeep. When the runners reached the local lake, there was
an obvious problem. The trio wanted to continue along a path but the Jeep
wasn't going to fit.


The police had no warning and didn't speak English, but with 30 seconds
of assessing the problem it was solved. Out of nowhere somebody
appeared holding a police bike, one of the guards jumped on. The runners
hadn't even broken stride.

It is one of the minor mysteries of India how that little exercise was
organised so quickly and so seamlessly but you are always surprised here.

Mitchell Starc was summoned to tour on Friday and had a visa by the time
the plane left on Saturday.

People will probably counter that story with a thousand tales of frustration
about attempting to get visas. They should tour the Third World
consulates and see the heart-breaking queues of people winding down
streets. Queues that stretch for weeks, months and years only to end with

If you think it's hard trying to get a visa to India, try being an ordinary
Indian trying to get one to Australia. The poor have no hope, the rich
however are acceptable. Yet India has been hosting our barefoot hippies,
drug addicts and spiritual seekers for decades with good grace and cheer.

Ever seen an Indian ascetic in Australia?

Didn't think so.

All of us are guilty of chuckling at India's occasionally mangled English or
becoming frustrated at somebody's incomprehension of our wishes. How 3
many of us speak Hindi or whatever language is relevant?


Still, it was side-splittingly funny when one cricket correspondent ordered
a naan bread to his room and was promptly delivered an ironing board.

India is incredible in so many ways. If you peer within the apparent chaos,
you will find some extraordinary order. Send your smalls out in the
morning to be washed and an intricate system that would put a computer
to shame sees them delivered to the river, beaten on stones and dried on
the banks with a million other items of clothing and somehow returned by
day's end.

Most of us can't wash a pair of socks in the laundry of our own home
without losing one.


It's time for a lot of us to 'get a life.' "

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Commonwealth Games - more popularly referred to as CWG - 2010, are finally over. And India managed to put up a rather good show, despite all bungling, disasters and controversies.

But just because the Games were finally a success, does not mean that those guilty of all the corruption, mismanagement of the entire project, delays and disasters, should be allowed to go scot free.

The guests - mainly the athletes from about 70 Countries had a nice time - and even they are now admitting it.
The foreign media, so critical at two weeks ago, is not shying from stating that the CWG 2010 were the best ever.

To a 'peripheral observer' like me, and to one indirectly impacted, as I am a citizen of Delhi two aspects related to the Games will remain 'top of mind'

First - 'Bravo' to the Delhi Police force, for having successfully managed a huge, huge challenge - that of  ensuring security and an incident free Games for a fortnight, and for having organised and controlled the traffic in a City, that has more number of vehicles than the total number of vehicles in Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata put together. The police was 'visible' on the roads, with smart policemen and women constables lined up on every major road, in neat, new uniforms. They were there, stuck to their posts for long tiring hours, every day of the entire duration of the CWG Games.

Thanks to the Delhi police - traffic was smooth, and no untoward incident marred the smooth progress of the Games.

Second - shame on the Australian delegation ! For the worst kind of behavior displayed on the last two days of their stay in India. They call themselves athletes, and they did win the most medals in CWG 2010. But were they sportsmen? Not really ! The created a 'ruccus' and 'booed' Sachin Tendulkar when they heard that he had scored a double century in the 2nd test match against their compatriots.

The next day, when India won the test match, the Australian delegation literally went berserk. They went on a rampage - destroying the property in the Games village, and even threw a washing machine from the eight floor of the building they were staying in. 

Here again, it was the Delhi Police that came to their rescue and saved not only the guilty, but also the Country from a major political and diplomatic embarrassment. The Delhi Police let bygones be bygones, and did not register a case at all !  I wonder if the Australian police would have been that magnanimous if the Indian delegation had misbehaved.

Two aspects of the same event, same happening. One praiseworthy and the other, deserving condemnation. One, an example of implementing discipline in a police force. And the other, of a team expected to be disciplined but breaking discipline in the worst possible way.

'Jai Ho' - India - for the all time highest medals tally. Keep it up !

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

These women did India proud !!

Finally, a jinx more than five decades old was broken yesterday at the CWG games, with three Indian women - Krishna Poonia, Harwant Kaur and Seema Antia, bagging the Gold, Sliver and Bronze medals and thus making a clean sweep of the medals tally in the Discuss Throw event.

It was a very proud moment indeed - for India, when these athletes won their medals for their Country in the Athletics category after a gap of more than 50 years ! The last medal was won by Milkha Singh in 1958.

What is even more a matter of pride -is that it was womens' athletics that shone bright, and achieved what the men are yet to come near to...

Well done Ladies - you did India proud !

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Play it Safe...!!

You know what's the latest at the Games Village?

The days of the dirty rooms, water logging, and dogs' footprints (and other prints too) are over. The king cobras and their babies have also thankfully decided to leave the athletes in peace. After all they too are Indians and believe in the philosophy of "Atithi Devao Bhava" or "Our guest is like God to us" 

So, no more harassment to the guests. This time - the problem has been created by the guests themselves. As each day passed, complaints started ringing in, of clogged toilets. And when the maintenance men came and investigated the root cause, guess what they found. The toilets were clogged with -hold your breath - CONDOMS !!

All eyes then turned to the very 'large' condom machine installed at the village (We do know how to take care of our guests - don't we?). And a quick stock taking revealed that of the 4000 condoms stocked in there, about half of them have been taken ! Wow ! Today is only the fourth day ! A quick calculation - 2000 condoms in 4 days -actually three days gone ! Right now - the fourth day's games are on - (I mean - the sports activities - I mean - games like athletics, swimming, weight lifting - those games).

What does Mr. Flennel say? What can he actually say - except - that he's happy all the condom users are practising safe sex...

Apparently, condoms in Games villages around the World - invariably ran out. It happened at Beijing in 2008, about 1,00,000 condoms were over and gone, before the Games were two weeks old. And before this, in Sydney in 2000, the initial stock of 70,000 ran out within days.

The Organising Committee had better do some advance planning. Remember - A condom means never having to say you're sorry !

And if things do go wrong, guess who's always be blamed ? Yes - the committee..!

Sex is certainly not a Commonwealth sport. So how come..??

The key drivers of such fast "consumer off take" apparently are - more than 7000 athletes in the Village, a lot of time at their disposal, and many of them knocked out - (pun unintended - I mean they are out of the sporting events which they came to participate in) in the early days of the Games.

Well - the athletes are enjoying themselves. We are the good hosts, as ever. And the condom Company's sales team will have a good month to report.

Everyone's happy. And I am not complaining either. All I can say is - "Play on - safe"

Monday, October 04, 2010

Let the Games begin...!

I have to confess - that there is a 180 degree turnaround in the state of affairs since - let's say a month ago.

Well- maybe not a full 180 degrees but we're getting there....

We had corruption, missed deadlines, shoddy workmanship, a complete absence of leadership etc. etc.
And all of this was highlighted by the Arnab Goswamis and the Barkha Dutts of the World. Today while they are being lambasted for having focused on only the negatives, the media sure has my appreciation. Had not the media cried hoarse over the massive bungling in every department, we the people wouldn't ever have realised the seriousness of the situation. Neither would have things started changing for the better.

So now, most of that is behind us. And going by what one has seen of the 'bandobast' in our own 'Dilli' the planning and organizing has been worth appreciating. Particularly the 'two lane traffic' The cops are more than visible - policemen and policewomen, in new clean uniforms. The 'janta' is following traffic rules - mainly for fear of being fined Rs 2000. Whatever be the motivation, people are acting decent on the roads - and that's a change.
The roads are newer and cleaner. And the icing on the cake -is Dilli's own brand new Metro train.

The one event that probably reinforced the confidence amongst the citizens of Dilli and also of India, was the opening ceremony yesterday.

Some aspects of the presentation were familiar scenes - showcasing India's rich cultural heritage...

What was unique this time, was the use of technology. The 'aerostat' balloon, supposed to have been bought at a staggering 65 crore was an instant hit. The same can be said about the laser show.

The dances were choreographed well and executed almost flawlessly perhaps because the performers were a set of highly enthusiastic school children. The music was refreshingly original, and above all, there were no glitches - no breakdown, no power shut out - no nuisance.

Nothing is complete without a good audience. And a good audience we had - about 65000 enthusiastic people, who cheered with a sporting spirit not only the home contingent, but also those from the neighbouring Countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

A great show which was meticulously planned was successfully presented by India, to its guests - participants in the CWG as well as millions of viewers across the Globe.

The World got to see India that is not only a cultural treasure, but also a 'Modern India'

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pakistan and Plebiscite in Kashmir

Mr Qureshi is at it again. Beating the same old "Kashmir' drum. This time he did it in his address at the UN General Assembly, much to India's chagrin.  Typical ploy to divert attention of Pakistanis when there is trouble within the Country. Little realizing that this 'game' played by the politicians and the Army in that Country, cannot go on forever. For instance the Americans are already calling General Kayani, a liar.But that is another story.

As regards 'plebiscite' in Kashmir is concerned - Mr. Qureshi should be categorically informed, that plebiscite is not the sole privilege of the Muslims of the State. The right to franchise in the plebiscite lies as much with Hindus and Sikhs, and the Buddhists in the State of J&K, as much with the Muslims. That's fair, isn't it? (That said I am personally not even convinced that it is a Hindu - Muslim issue. Peaceful co-existence between these two communities has been legendary, and generations old).

But that aside, is the welfare of the Kashmiris or the Kashmiri Muslims really Pakistan's concern? I can't digest that. More likely, it is the obsession of Pakistan, with that piece of land which they wanted at the time of partition, but didn't get. So the logical question is this - isn't plebiscite all about choosing or voting for a ruler or Government? And if my layman's understanding is correct, then one simplistic solution to assuage the concern of Pakistan about the Kashmiri's is this. Let the people of Kashmir decide. But they will decide on which Country they want to adopt. Those that want a Government like in Pakistan, should be accepted by that Country in a fully honorable way. Those that choose to stay back and prefer India, are obviously - more than welcome to stay back in their own homeland - Kashmir. 

But one thing is clear - Kashmir stays where it is - with India. 

What say - Mr. Qureshi? Time to demonstrate your 'genuine concern' for the poor Kashmiri...All those who want to go with you...take them all... 


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Great Indian (CWG) Tamasha...!

Less than two weeks to go. Teams from some Countries are already here. Is Indian ready - for what is easily one of the biggest events she has ever hosted in her history? An show that every Country would pride itself in putting up. A show that every guest attending would remember for a long, long time...

Less than two weeks to go. Construction in stadia and the games village is still incomplete. And whatever is supposedly complete - some towers in the games village which houses the living apartments for the participating teams - have been clearly and unambiguously been certified as 'un livable'. Because animals are roaming around inside apartments and 'shitting' on top of the beds. Electrical systems are faulty and therefore there is danger to life.

Yesterday, a foot bridge meant to be used by the team members and officials collapsed, injuring 23 people.

A foreign journalist manages to purchase explosives - enough to organise 200 different explosions, stuff all of that into a large suitcase, and then slips in, into the games premises. So much so, for security, two days after a firing incident in which two foreigners were injured, and the message from a terrorist organisation clearly stating that the Games will be targeted.

Amongst all this, the Organising Committee, The Minister for Urban Development remain shamelessly unfazed. Jaipal Reddy termed the bridge collapse as a 'minor incident'. In his definition any incident in which people didn't die, is minor !

Bhanot - a senior office bearer of the Organising Committee dismisses the mess in the games village by stating the standards of hygiene are different for Indians and foreigners. Let me ask him - how would his Indian sensibilities respond when he checks in, into a hotel or a guest house, and finds dog poop right on top of the bed? Or when female members of his family look out of the window and see the staff urinating in front of their eyes? Is all of that fine with him, because he is Indian?

Indian hosted the Asian Games in 1982. And we put up a damn good show, by any standards, thanks to an organising committee who were bothered about India's reputation and prestige. The OC was led by Rajiv Gandhi and supported by two of his everyday political supporters - Arun Nehru and Arun Singh.

The story goes that one evening, just two or three days before the games were to begin, they got to know that the roof of one of the stadia was leaking. The three of them mobilised a team, and stood guard the whole night, and left only when the problem was fixed.

Twenty eight years have passed between then and now. And the extent to which our character, values and sense of responsibility as a Nation, has eroded is evident to one and all.

While all of us wait and watch, what's left now is one by one, teams will take a decision and not attend the Commonwealth Games 2010, because they are being hosted by India- a land, where a guest is supposed to be regarded as God.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lt. General Hanut Singh PVSM MVC

In an earlier note, I wrote about moral courage and the ability to stand upright for what one believes is right. One such officer was Lt. Genl. Nathu Singh. I am reminded of yet another Army officer - a general belonging to an entirely different generation and an era. That officer was Lt. General Hanut Singh - PVSM MVC.

Many many know of Lt. Genl. Hanut Singh, as the elder cousin of Jaswant Singh -the famed leader of the BJP.

Genl Hanut Singh is described by many - as a 'complete soldier'. He epitomised courage - moral as well as physical, fair mindedness a very high standard of morality, discipline and professionalism.

Born into a proud clan of 'Rathor' Rajputs from 'Jasol' in Rajasthan, Hanut Singh joined the Joint Services Wing (JSW in Dehra Dun in 1949, and was commissioned into the '17 Horse' popularly known as the 'Poona Horse' in 1952. Poona Horse - a coveted cavalry regiment, had the unique distinction of having won 4 Victoria Crosses and two Param Vir Chakras -one in the 1965 war and the other in the 1971 war with Pakistan.  Hanut was Commandant of 17 Horse, and led his regiment to victory in the famous 'Battle of Basantar' we Indians know it,or the Battle of Bade Pind, as the Pakistanis call it. 

Hanut was himself  decorated with the Maha Vir Chakra for displaying courage while leading his officers and men during the battle.

Hanut Singh's subsequent tenures as commander of an armoured Division and a strike Corps, left no doubt in the minds of military experts that he was one of the best armoured commanders India had produced.

It is not my intention to write much abut his achievements as a military strategist and a  tactician. However, one of the qualities that he displayed time and again, was his ability to stand up and speak boldly for what he believed in. I have read about two such instances during his tenure in the Army, that merit sharing.

Shortly after he assumed command of an independent armored brigade, a discussion was held at the Corps HQ about a concept of crossing a water obstacle by the armored division and the subsequent breakout. Attending this discussion apart from Hanut Singh, were Lt. Genl ZC 'Zoru' Bakshi and Lt Genl IS 'Inder' Gill the Western Army Commander. While this concept had been formally approved by teh Army HQ, the Corps commander had initiated the discussion as he wanted the concept to be evaluated and tested before implementation. Most senior formation commanders were attending this meeting.

When Hanut Singh read the concept he as surprised to see such an impractical concept probably written by an 'armchair' tactician, had been approved all the way up to the Army HQ. He expressed his reservations about the concept, within the syndicate that he was part of. The syndicate leader overruled him, on the grounds that the Army HQ had already accorded approval. Undeterred, Hanut sought permission from the Chief of Staff of the Corps HQ, to express a personal opinion on this issue. Permission was granted. 

Hanut's words while addressing the meeting were simple and bold "Though I find myself in a position of being one man against the house, I have some very major and serious reservations against this concept". He then went on to outline in detail just how the concept was 'not workable' even in an exercise leave alone a full scale war.

The entire audience was shell shocked at turned to look at the Army Commander - Inder Gill who responded by saying "Hanut - you aren't alone against the house - I too do not agree with this concept. Gill then asked Hanut if the latter had any suggestion as an alternative. Hanut presented a workable solution. The Army Commander and Corps commander both agreed to Hanut's observations and the concept was 'dropped'.

In an exercise held some time later after this incident, Hanut's brigade was asked to execute a 'breakout' plan. Hanut expressed reservations about the plan but was overruled. The situation that developed 'on the ground' was exactly as Hanut had predicted. Hanut immediately  called off the plan. The next morning when the Army and Corps commanders inquired as to why he had aborted the manoeuvre he replied "I am not prepared to order my leading regiment to undertake a mission that would be suicidal"

Hanut Singh went on the command a brigade and a Corps. His last assignment in the Army was that of Commandant, Armored Corps Center and Ahmednagar.
With a flawless service record, it was expected that Lt. Gen. Hanut Singh would make Army Commander. But that was not to be. He was passed over, on two major grounds - one that he was a bachelor and shunned social life, which was partly valid, and the other allegation against him was that he was a 'religious bigot' The second charge was seen to be utter nonsense. Hanut was a deeply religious person, and at the same time very tolerant of all other religions. The fact that all rank and file under him literally worshiped him, should have been enough grounds to call that insinuation a blatant lie. 

He took his 'passing over' quite philosophically.When a subordinate informed him of his passing over and expressed sorrow, his typical reply was "Why are you sorry? It's the Army that should be sorry. If the Army they don't want me, the loss is theirs, not mine" Hanut Singh continued to serve his assignment with the same dedication and zeal till the day he retired - on July 31, 1991.
Today, Hanut Singh lives in an 'Ashram' in Dehra Dun. 

Hanut Singh will always be remembered as one of the finest armor commanders the Indian Army has produced. His simplicity, courage, boldness, and a high sense of professionalism will continue to inspire thousand of officers and men of the Indian Army.

(This blog post has been adapted mostly from the book titled:

"Leadership in the Indian army: biographies of twelve soldiers"

 By Major General (Retd.) V. K. Singh)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Joint Commissioner of Delhi Police (Traffic)-Mr. Satyendra Garg, has threatened, that if a driver driving on a Delhi road does not give way to an emergency vehicle-like and ambulance, fire engine etc. wanting to overtake, all such vehicles will be hauled up, and the drivers will have to pay a fine of Rs 100. Their vehicles could also be impounded.
Finally, someone has decided to think about this problem ! I have in course of my daily commuting, been witness to this almost heart breaking spectacle on the roads of Delhi, when an ambulance with its siren shrieking, is desperately wanting to cut through the traffic and rush the patient to the hospital. I have wondered as to what must be going on in the minds of the occupants of the ambulance -specially the patients' attendants and near and dear ones, in this chaotic situation, where they must be totally helpless and frustrated.

But then I also wonder at Mr. Satyendra Garg's decision about imposing a fine. To me, it is unfair. There would be a handful of drivers, who are totally insensitive and do not move out of the way, when an ambulance or a fire engine wants to pass. And such drivers should be punished.

I am certainly not insensitive. But I have a problem with this decision taken by the police.
To understand the dilema of a driver who is otherwise a sensitive human being, and who encounters a situation where an ambulance is right behind him, depserately honking his horn, and blowing his siren, wanting to pass, you have to first look at this picture below.....

This is the normal scene on a typical road, at practically ANY time of the day. I travel on such roads daily, as do thousands of drivers. Just for a moment, imagine you are the driver of any one of those cars you see in the picture. And imagine that there is an ambulance or a fire engine behind you. ....

My question to you is - HOW - do I move out of the way to give way to that emergency vehicle? I along with others am 'packed' like sardines on this road. I cannot move towards my left, and I certainly cannot move to the right.

Where do I move??

Mr. Garg - I would like you to look at this photo also and answer my question please !

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Leave the Army out of this...

This is my second post on this subject, which is the involvement of the Armed forces in civilian matters.
Lately, there has been a lot of debate about he dilution of the 'Armed Forces Special Powers Act' of the AFSPA as its popularly (or infamously, now) known. The people of Jammu & Kashmir, as well as the State Government are strongly lobbying for dilution, repealing or at least diluting this Act. Others - champions of human rights, NGOs and so on, have also found opportunity to 'drift with the flow'. The Army, on the other hand feels, that rather than diluting the Act, it should be made even more stringent, thus enabling the Army to be more effective in dealing with the task that it has been entrusted with - that of fighting insurgency.
There is however, one dimension to this issue that sadly gets ignored always. In recent times, it is the Army that gets pulled in, at the drop of the hat, in almost any kind of civil emergency situation. The kind if situations that our soldiers are called to help in, are communal riots, natural calamities - floods, tsunami earthquakes etc, and now on a kind of permanent basis - counter insurgency.
It needs to be emphasised that the primary role of the Indian Army is to guard the frontiers of the Country. And, in a situation where the enemy States act in a manner that threatens the sovereignty of India, the Army fights to ward off any such threat, and this might mean killing enemy soldiers.

Considering this role, every single jawan or officer recruited into the Army, is trained from his first day of existence in the force, to fight a war and kill. For that is his 'raison de etre' in the Army. Over a period of years, his entire mental and physical make up, his psyche is that of a warrior.

Any Government however, will not hesitate even a little, in taking a decision to deploy the Army in situations where close civilian contact is warranted. In many such situations, the Army is helping out civilians from 'near death' situations.

And why does the Government trust the Army more than the thousands strong police forces and the para military forces? Because the Government knows that because of the strict code of discipline and chain of command, the army is the most effective in all such situations. This was also the reason why the Army first got deployed to fight insurgency and terrorism. The army did not want this, because this isn't the role of the Army. More importantly, this is certainly not what an average army man is trained for.

And when in the process of fighting terrorism, there is collateral damage by way of some civilians becoming causalities, it is the same Army that is blamed squarely.

Isn't this unfair?

It isn't the Army that's doing anything wrong. Its the political decisions that are all wrong.

The Army is tired of doing jobs that it wasn't expected to do. So therefore, by all means, repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. But at the same time, pull the Army out of all such situations, where you first depend upon them and ask for their help, and then blame them.
Its time the the para military forces - thousands of jawans, move in, to take over that job that the Army finds itself 'reluctant' to do. These jawans need to be trained, properly equipped with arms and weapons, and then deployed. If necessary, raise a specialised force to combat terrorism. But for God's sake, leave the Army out of this.
It's high time we stopped humiliating and demeaning an Institution that has over the years withstood all trials and tribulations, and still remains one of the most disciplined forces in our Country.
As a Country we should thank the Army for its services rendered, and forever be grateful to them. And then leave them to do the job they were expected to do, in the first place.