Saturday, April 10, 2010


The mood in the army camp was tense. The morale low. The commanding officer did not even have the luxury of shedding tears - some of the younger officers and jawans stood in attention - tears freely streaming down their eyes. In front of us lay several bodies - of soldiers killed while launching an impossible attack on the icy peaks of Drass during the Kargil war. I had spent the last couple of days at this camp, had even shared a drink with the young officer who lay dead in front. I followed the commanding officer to his tent. Some officers followed. In the fog of war, no one knew how many peaks were held by the `enemy.' The orders from the top were to launch another attack the following night. But every where that the army went they drew fire. This peak, that bump, that tit and that hump. It seemed as if the Pakistani army had prepared its defences well. In the initial days of the war the reverses the severe.

A mug of hot coffee was brought in. But our throat was so heavy that not a drop went in. A soldier walked in, saluted the CO and sought permission to speak freely. It was granted. He was the religious preacher. He held the Bhagwat Gita in one hand and his INSAS 5.56 rifle was slung over his shoulder. That was the rule, even for religious preachers and cooks - the non combatants. The preacher in combat fatigues began :

In the Kurukshetra battlefield Arjun lost his will to fight. Even before the war Arjun's resolve failed him. He did not have the will to kill his cousins, uncles, guru and loved ones. Yogeshwar Shri Krishna told Arjun - If you are killed in combat, you will go to heaven, if you win you will rule over earth that seems like heaven...therefore o son of Kunti, take a firm resolve and fight.

The CO, the officers and the jawans assembled once again. There was a prayer ceremony. The commanding officer of the adjacent artillery regiment joined in. In the next couple of days more howitzers, additional troops, aerial reconnaissance pictures and fighter jets came in. The unit launched another attack. This time they won - and continued to press ahead till the enemy was pushed on the other side of the line of control. The CO is today a senior army general. Some of the young officers are now commanding batallions at the LoC and other parts of the border.

But there is a lesson here for Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and his brave men combating what prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh has rightly called the biggest threat to India's internal security - the Maoists. There will be set backs. There will be serious reverses. But that should only firm the nation's resolve to fight to the finish. It is time to call in the experts. I am not advocating that we remove the brave men of the central reserve police force and other central police organisations. They need able commanders. Senior army officers - both serving and retired who have decades of experince in counter insurgency and jungle warfare. Jawans who have the experience to fight in the jungles of Nagaland and Kupwara.

In one of my previous blogs I have argued a piecemeal effort will never succeed. Chidambaram will have to rope in chief ministers - more importantly the director generals of police of all the affected states. They will have to launch simultaneous offensives in the states. Neutralise the leaders and the movement will fizzle out. Deny them the oxygen of publicity. Do not discuss tactics and operations in the media. Be transparent - let operations be open to coverage so that rumours do not fuel further trouble but let this be a war for the victory of the nation - above narrow petty political interests.


The initial mistake in Kargil was rushing in without appreciating the might of the enemy. We seem to be repeating the same mistake even in Operation Greenhunt. The operations dont have to begin today. Plan well. Intelligence about the Maoist strength, weapons, escape routes, supporters, tactical and senior commanders is essential. The police in Delhi, Chattisgarh and West Bengal seem have to gathered sufficient intelligence about the training, tactics, weapons and operating procedures of naxalites from the arrest and interrogation of several maoist leaders and sympathisers. Let that information not be restricted to police files only. Let it percolate down to the platoon commanders - after all they are the ones in the line of fire.

74 CRPF personnel being killed by Maoists not only points to poor planning of operations but also extremely tardy tactics, training and SOPs in place. For every soldier it should be his second nature to break out of an ambush. After all you do not have to be Clausewitz or Sun Tzu to know how Maoists attack and how to beat it back. Gather intelligence and then launch an offensive at a place and time of your choosing. To use the army or air force or not is the decision of the commander on ground - the media may discuss it threadbare - but let the war planners deliberate - take a decision and stick to it.

To win a war - aim is important. But equally important is maintaining that aim. Shifting the goal post will only lead to more Dantewada type set backs.

In India we have had this discussion for a long time - decades. we have romanticised the naxal movement and we have criticised it. We have debated long enough. Now is the time to act. and act decisively. the Maoists have been given long enough to join the national mainstream. If they claim to represent the masses let them represent them in the state assemblies and the national parliament. The election commission and the media - let there be international media if they so desire - to see the transprency of elections. But the Maoists and their jhola-wala sympathisers have to realise in India - the majority believe in democracy. Power does not come from the barrel of the gun and you cannot overthrow the democratically elected government (even if you and I hate it for a million reasons) by a so called revolution. It is ballot over bullet. Believe in it or please go where ever they believe in your kind of jungle-Raj.

The commanding officer of that Kargil unit is today a senior general in the army. He told me even he felt like putting in his papers that icy morning in Kargil. But like the Bhagwat Gita preaches - he took a firm resolve and the nation won. He did not even have the luxury of putting in his papers. That in the army during war is cowardice. India is at war Mr Chidambaram. The nation needs you to lead from the front. Your resignation is victory for the Maoists. Your resolve is the nations' victory. Fight owe it to the 74 martyrs of Dantewada and the nation.