മാര്‍ഷല്‍ കഥകള്‍ : The Indian Army’s Greatest Tribulation!


‘In my three decades of reporting on the Indian military, I have never felt more uneasy about the military-media interface as I have in the past three months’, says one Mr. Gokhle, a famous journalist.
This is not because the media has been accused of being sensationalist but because many unsavoury truths about internal rivalry and groupism in the military brass have created bad blood in the top hierarchy. All were caused due to unconventional political shortsightedness!
The unease stems from the damage that the events of the past few months have inflicted on the average Indian soldier.
For at least a quarter of a century now, we have been lamenting the steadily diminishing status of the ordinary Indian soldier in society; that soldiering is no longer respected as a noble profession in our rural areas; that the jawan struggles to get his due from a civil administration increasingly contemptuous and apathetic towards him; that he continues to get paid poorly and treated unfairly by a society solely driven by materialism. One can see the plight of a soldier loitering in the local town while he comes on leave. People only ask him: hi, got your quota? Whatever it means! He gets his 60 days annual leave; you know what it is? 52 Sundays plus 16 gazatted holidays are given to all central government employees, while a soldier is on duty for all 24 x 7 in service barracks. So the British administration decided to give him his Sundays at least in a stretch. And that’s all no extra leave otherwise!! How many of you know about it? After independence we follow that system. Air Force pesrsonnel are given only 45 days of leave since they have severe manpower shortages.
Now, following a spate of reports based on half-truths and outright lies, motivated by God alone knows what, we may have done the ultimate disservice to the Indian soldier: Planted the seed of suspicion about his loyalty in the minds of ordinary Indians.

The ultimate disservice to the Indian soldier
While the media person report what he or she thinks is right, none of them has thought through the consequences of the effect it will have on the psyche of the Indian soldier and, more importantly, the way ordinary Indians will view the Indian Army.
In the mad race to boost circulation and viewer ratings, media may have, in one go, started the process of demolishing one of the last institutions that has stood rock solid in defence of the idea that is India.
Definitely the medias have not paused to think about the long-term damage it would have wrought upon the profession of soldiering.
While all dramatis personae are equally culpable in the current controversy, the media certainly have a greater responsibility not to add fuel to the fire.
The Army is India’s Brahma Asthra
It can be thus said because from disaster relief in floods, tsunamis and earthquakes, to rescuing an infant Prince from a deep tube well and from quelling rioters in communal strife to being the last resort in internal counter-insurgency operations, the Indian Army has been omnipresent as well as omnipotent !In Kerala once a train fell down in a large bridge into the sea water and the civil administration was all sitting in gaped mouth ; the Army Regiment came and got all the living and dead out of water. They are the same Havildars , Naiks, Sepoys , Naib Subedars , Subedars , Subedar Majors and Captains and Major who are in and around as security guards(hic) after their retirement. Civil administration are just not simply not using their talents and experience at all ; the soldier slowly fades away!!
The Indian Army’s versatility, adaptability, selfless attitude and resourcefulness have allowed it to be what it is today: Nation Builders. That is why it is called , India’s Brahma Asthra (the ultimate weapon) and we are not using it properly.
Viewed in the context of India’s immediate and extended neighbourhood, the Indian Army’s stellar role stands out in stark contrast to its counterparts in other countries.
Remember, the Indian and Pakistani armies originated from the same source, the British army. Yet, six decades since they parted ways, there couldn’t be a bigger dissimilarity in the way the two have evolved.
As they say, India has an army while the Pakistani army has a nation! More importantly, despite India’s increasing dependence on its army to pull its chestnuts out of fire time and again, the Indian Army has scrupulously remained apolitical. Even then, some scribe tried to scribble a story out of vacuum and total emptiness a theory of a military coup d’état recently! A very sad enough story!
A systematic assault on the Indian Army
The Indian Army’s contribution in nurturing and strengthening democracy with all its faults can never be underestimated. It has put down fissiparous and secessionist forces within India at great cost to itself over the last 61-odd years. It has protected India from within and without.
The Indian Army also has a unique distinction of helping create a nation (Bangladesh) in the neighbourhood and then quietly walking away to let the people take charge. They were ushered to do it with full confidence and they did it! In contrast, the Pakistani army has never really allowed democracy to flourish in its country. Instead, it has created a military-industrial complex that has spread its tentacles in every aspect of governance.
Even today, the Pakistani army does not let go of any opportunity to undercut democracy; it nurtures and treats jihadi elements as its strategic asset against India and the United States.
Even in other smaller nations around India — Nepal, Myanmar and Bangladesh, for instance — the armed forces have had to intervene and run the affairs of those countries at some point.
The Indian Army has also withstood systematic assaults on its status from politicians and bureaucrats who are forever looking for ways to downgrade the military’s status. The order of precedence of the Army chief got severely back phased from 4th to 12th. While the principle of civilian supremacy over the armed forces is well entrenched and understood in India, what is incomprehensible is the constant chipping away at the military’s standing.

The Army, the civilian and the politician
The nation as a whole, and indeed the people at large, have the highest regard and affinity for the men in uniform for the yeoman service they render in every conceivable situation. However, most mandarins at the ministry of defence and some politicians do not have the same opinion and are repeatedly trying to run down the military without realising the immense damage they cause to the only available bulwark we have against any attempt to Balkanise India.
Now, unfortunately, even the media seem to have joined this ill-informed and devious bunch of opportunists.
As a former chief of the army staff, General S Padmanabhan, says in his book, A General Speaks, ‘Even after Independence, India’s political leaders found it convenient to keep the Army, Navy and the Air Force out of the policy-making bodies. The service HQs were left at the level that the British left them — that of being attached offices of the ministry of defence. Even at the level of defence minister and service chiefs, exchanges on major matters of defence policy were few and far in between.’
Another former army chief, General Shankar Roy Choudhury, has observed: ‘It is essential in the national interest that the armed forces are upgraded and updated on an ongoing basis, something which governments have been traditionally loath to acknowledge and undertake, the Indian government perhaps more so than others in this respect.’

We must back the nation’s strongest asset
Historically, it is to the credit of the Indian Army that it has fulfilled its role as an organ of the State; it has functioned effectively in every type of role, in spite of the general lack of a supportive government environment by way of adequate finances, resources, equipment, personnel policies, or higher political direction.
A nation’s military provides what is called a hard-edged back-up to its international standing. A strong military — and especially a powerful, well-trained, fully-equipped army — acts as a deterrent against adversaries.
It is therefore essential that the nation’s decision-makers consciously back the army and provide it with the support it needs to meet diverse challenges that exist and are likely to come up in the coming decade.
So far, the Indian Army has fulfilled its role in nation building admirably well.
All of us — ordinary citizens, media persons, politicians, bureaucrats — must continue to back the nation’s strongest asset and further strengthen it, if we desire to see India as a global player in the decades to come.

The Army is vital for India’s survival
Centuries ago, Kautilya, the wily old strategist, told Emperor Chandragupta Maurya why the soldier is important for the kingdom’s survival. The Emperor understood it and acted on it!
If India has to survive as a nation-state, this advice (reproduced from a piece written by Air Marshal S G Inamdar for the USI Journal) is worth repeating in its entirety here.
As the learned air marshal says: ‘It is amazing how clearly those ancients saw the likely faultiness’ in governance, the intricacies of management of the military by the state functionaries, the nature of the military and the citizenry and the close interplay between them all. It is truly amazing how those observations continue to be so completely relevant today, even after 2,000 years.
‘Here’s what Kautilya told the king of Magadh:
‘The Mauryan soldier does not himself the royal treasuries enrich nor does he the royal granaries fill.
‘He does not himself carry out trade and commerce nor produce scholars, thinkers, litterateurs, artistes, artisans, sculptors, architects, craftsmen, doctors and administrators.
‘He does not himself build roads and ramparts nor dig wells and reservoirs.
‘He does not himself write poetry and plays, paint or sculpt, nor delve in metaphysics, arts and sciences.
‘He does not do any of this directly as he is neither gifted, trained nor mandated to do so.’

What the soldier does for his nation
The soldier only and merely ensures that:
‘The tax, tribute and revenue collectors travel far and wide unharmed and return safely;
‘The farmer tills, grows, harvests, stores and markets his produce unafraid of pillage and plunder;
‘The trader, merchant and moneylender function and travel across the length and breadth of the realm unmolested;
‘The savant, sculptor, painter, maestro and master create works of art, literature, philosophy, astronomy and astrology in peace and quietitude;
‘The architect designs and builds his Vaastus without tension;
‘The tutor (acharya), the mentor (guru) and the priest (purohit) teach and preach in tranquility;
‘The sages (rishis, munis and tapaswis) meditate and undertake penance in wordless silence;
‘The doctor (vaidyaraja) tends to the ill and the infirm well, adds to the pharmacopoeia, discovers new herbs and invents new medical formulations undisturbed;
‘The mason, the bricklayer, the artisan, the weaver, the tailor, the jeweller, the potter, the carpenter, the cobbler, the cowherd (gopaala) and the smith work unhindered;
‘The mother, wife and governess go about their chores and bring up children in harmony and tranquility;
‘The aged and the disabled are well taken care of, tended to and are able to fade away gracefully and with dignity;
‘The cattle graze freely without being lifted or harmed by miscreants.’

The soldier is the very basis of a nation
He is thus the VERY BASIS and silent, barely visible CORNERSTONE of our fame, culture, physical well being and prosperity; in short, of the entire nation building activity.
‘He DOES NOT perform any of these chores himself directly: he ENABLES the rest of us to perform these without let, hindrance or worry (nirbheek and nishchinta).
‘Our military sinews, on the other hand, lend credibility to our pronouncements of adherence to good Dharma, our goodwill, amiability and peaceful intentions towards all our neighbour nations (Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha, Sarve Santu Niramayaha…) as also those far away and beyond.
‘These also serve as a powerful deterrent against military misadventure by any one of them against us.’

Standing vigil, eyes peeled for action, day and night, dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn…
‘If Pataliputra reposes each night in peaceful comfort, O King, it is so because she is secure in the belief that the distant borders of Magadha are inviolate and the interiors are safe and secure, thanks to the mighty Mauryan Army constantly patrolling and standing vigil with naked swords and eyes peeled for action (animish netre) day and night (ratrau-divase) in weather fair and foul, dawn-to-dusk-to-dawn (ashtau prahare) quite unmindful of personal discomfort and hardship, loss of life and limb, separation from the family, all through the year, year after year (varsha nu varshe).
‘While the Magadha citizenry endeavours to make the State prosper and flourish, the Mauryan soldier guarantees that the State continues to EXIST! He is the silent sine qua non of our very being!’
Can we all in uniform , civil services, politics, media and society at large — imbue this spirit? Then we can certainly combat altogether the quotationists, pillagers, plunderers, raiders, spoilers, the corrupts, ransackers, the misguiders, the terrorists and the like digging trenches and laying booby traps all over the path-ways of the nation , at a stretch and bring back a certain stabilized social living in the state!



Brig M.G.Devasahayam ‘s write up – given below-is brilliant as well as to the point. It is my opinion that Shekhar Gupta has not analyzed the matter in its correct perspective. He should have known more of the Army matters as well as its structured scenario in Indian context.

2, The fear or anxiety of a Mil coup d’état in India is baseless and far from reality as would be seen from the following factors:
• 2 Bns moving at a dark hours in or around N.Delhi was observed on 16 the Jan 12 morning. That was the point of worry .The COAS [Chief Of Army Staff] cannot order directly any troops anywhere in his Army. There is a chain of command. The General does not order,” ok you Battalion Commander , move your Bn from Meerut to New Delhi tomorrow morning. You should reach at Red fort at 0800 hrs sharp. And thereafter you report to me” . The Army Chief has his 5 PSOs [ Principal staff officers] and all heads of Arms & services there. He has 7 commands – [their Heads are called Army Commanders] -responsible for respective territory under their jurisdiction and all 7 encompasses the entire India. Under Army Commaders (Lt.Generals), there are Corps Commanders, they tpp are headed by Lt.Generals. They are the Fighting Formations. Under them, there are Divisions- Infantry Divs/Armed Div/Mechanised Inf Divs/Mountain Divs etc. Under Divisions there are Brigades, under whom Battalions are formed. Under battalion you have Companies;Platoons or Batteries,sections etc. This way the chain of Command goes. Even a section Commander is a Commander {Naik} and he is a responsible soldier fully aware of HIS ROLE.
• Any movement has to be under proper order from the proper authority in the chain of command. A written Op. Order will be there.
• Besides we have Intelligence Wing both in the Civil & Army. They keep on sniffing. Any untoward incidence or observations are reported to the top echelons!
• The COAS if had got all the PSOs & All Army Commanders of All 7 Commands, at his N.Delhi HQ, and if any lurking troops showed in the vicinity, then it could have been surmised so by Shekhar that way. But That had not taken place.
• The Coup takes place in a small country where the Army Chief is all alone, powerful and enjoys the complete control in his person and HE IS VERY YOUNG IN AGE. Our GEN VK is just 60 + and almost spent force so far health is concerned. He is matured enough and fully vested with patriotic devotion towards HIS Country. He might or Will have all the ailments in the coming years due to aging factors and devastating stress factors that one under goes in the Army.
• India has BSF etc and various other forceful FORCES ; besides they are under Home Ministry and not Defence Ministry.
• Such varied bifurcation as also the AIR FORCE & INDIAN NAVY with equal Ranking Chiefs ; all of them cannot get , in any circumstances. to unified command!
3. So the fear is invented one or imaginary. It would serve to cast aspersions about Army and its Chief and nothing else. Think of the joke, that 2 Bns took over the Country as great as India! in a winter morning!! Just like that. And all the ministers and Baboos are intact in the south block in a larger room!! Fully packed and without water, tea, or breakfast!! POOR chaps! Morning PATRA VAARTHA [News in the PAPER]: GREAT INDIAN COUP. AT THE DAWN, UNDER HEAVY SNOW, TWO BATTALIONS HAVE MOVED IN TO THE PARLIAMENT AND TOOK OVER INDIAN GOVERNMENT IN A BLOODLESS COUP!! a STRAIGHT DRIVE.WHAT A SMOOTH OPERATION!

4. I feel like laughing! Though it is not funny! I would simply say one thing: You Press fellows, please don’t be so cheap and sell out you to any one for money. You need only ” do vakth kaa roti , and what will you do with the so called undeservedly amassed money? Arey uthnaa hii apne chonch mein le lo, jithna uTaa sakthaa hai! Jyaada udaavO TO bhaarii hO jaavEgaa aur poorE kE poorE niche girEgaa hee!!
5. These people made a hash of HIS prestige: the Supreme Court did not accept his Date Of Birth certificate which was issued by Military Hospital Pune back in 51. But took it as correct what was written in a simple form of an application without any supporting documents! This is what I understood from reading the papers! The rest of arguments are BUNKUM!!They fooled the country and the ARMY.
6. If this is the case with Chief of Army Staff, what would be the condition of ordinary JAWANS? HIS- the jawans-morale is in boots!!!
7. The HONOUR, safety security and integrity of the country is supreme , first always and every time; the honour ,safety, security and welfare of the men under you come next always and every time. Your own honour, safety and welfare comes last always and every time! That is the learning by an OFFICER right from the day he joins the Military Academy. Because in Army one has always someone on top and your welfare etc are assured. So The CHIEF’s welfare and HONOUR should have been the matter of CONCERN of the MOD or Defence Minister or the supreme Commander ie. The President Of India!! NOBODY BOTHERED ABOUT IT. HE HAD TO FIGHT IT OUT AND MISERABLY BLED AND STILL BLEEDING!! And they say, he is sulking!! A big JOKE!!
8. Military is a very important wing of the country. Please politicians and bureaucrats do not under estimate it. Give the Military its due respect and honour it deserve, they would defend the country and the subjects! The military had gone through the MILL in 1962,1965 ,1971 and at KARGIL etc .
9. I have taken part in first 3 of them. Kerala Government does not offer us free parking facility even at Rail/airport or anywhere. Governor never called us veterans for a get together at his HOUSE during 15 Aug , which is a practice in other states!! This is KERALA!!!
On Sun, Apr 8, 2012 at 9:42 AM, VRU Menon sent the write up by Devasahayam to me for reading.
Dear Shekhar Gupta,

I recall the days when I was the District Commissioner of Chandigarh in the mid-seventies and you were a cub reporter with THE TRIBUNE. You then had idealism with fire in your belly. I had taken you as my younger brother and had presided over your registered marriage, the only time I performed this duty which is delegated to Executive Magistrates. You then rose fast and became a clebrity in the media. Except for odd telephonic conversations there was no contact between us. Even this contact was lost when you became a super-celebrity and I could not even reach you over phone.

Be that as it may, after reading the special story written by you in today’s Indian Express insinuating coup attempt by the Indian Army led by a fine soldier called VK Singh all I can say is that I am ashamed of having ever known you. I would not depart without reproducing a brief passage below:
The critical role played by the Indian Army in protecting and defending India’s democracy during the dark days of Emergency (26th June, 1975 – 21st March, 1977) has been candidly brought out in the Book “’JP Movement, Emergency and India’s Second Freedom’: (Publisher VITASTA, ISBN 978-93-80828-61-9, October 2011 – Author M.G.Devasahayam)”, which was written in the context of the National Emergency and the role played by ayaprakash Narayan (who was my prisoner for nearly six months) in restoring democracy. Herewith are some of the extracts:
“During the 20 months of active Emergency, people moved in hushed silence, stunned and traumatised by the draconian goings on. Across the nation, grovelling academicians, advocates and accountants vied with each other to sing paeans of glory to the Emergency rulers, some signing pledges of loyalty and servitude in blood! Whisky-swilling and pipe-smoking social climbers and sycophants chanted in unison, “Discipline is preferable to democracy,” just because trains were running on time and they got a parking lot at the Connaught Place! The bulk of the civil service crawled when asked to bend. The higher echelons of the judiciary bowed to the dust and decreed that under the Emergency regime, citizens did not even have the “right to life”. Politicians of all hue and colour, barring honourable exceptions, lay supine and prostrate. There was gloom all around and it looked as if every thing was over and the world’s largest democracy was slowly but surely drifting into dictatorship. ”
What changed the tide is best described in a long investigative article titled “Ruler of 600 million and alone – Indira Gandhi is unmaking a democracy ‘to save it’ and looking to exchange moral authority for bread” in the TIME magazine of August 11, written by Claire Sterling, regular columnist for Atlantic Monthly, Washington Post and International Herald Tribune, who had recently visited India.
“Indira Gandhi is perhaps more powerful than ever before, but she is also more alone. There is no one left to share with her the blame of the regime’s failings, no one of any stature to partake with her the task of running her vast benighted nation.
So desperately isolated has she become, so driven into new repressions that cut off her line of retreat, that the dynamics of staying on top may well push her into becoming a real dictator. And, though she is not the woman to make India anyone’s satellite if she can help it, her increasing dependence on Moscow and the Communists could send the country lurching into the Soviet orbit. Neither development is likely to leave the Indian Army unmoved. And that is perhaps the crux of the situation.
India’s standing Army of nearly a million men has been resolutely non-political since Independence. But it is also sensitive to the smallest slight to its honour, dignity and military independence, not to mention the nation’s sovereignty; and it is steeped in loyalty to constitutional principles. It was altogether her Army when she enjoyed unquestioned legitimacy of constitutional rule. It may not be should its ranking officers conclude that she has become something else. More than ever now her fate hangs on the Army’s loyalty.”
Taking a direct hit at Indira, the author concludes: “Someone once told me, as I was traveling around India, that the one thing worse than trying to govern the country by democratic persuasion would be trying to govern it by force. Yet that is how Indira is trying to do it now. Depending on how fast and how far she goes in changing from a traditional Prime Minister to the one-woman ruler of a police state, the Indian Army – the one group with the power to stop the process – could intervene. If it were to do so, it would almost certainly be not to replace her with a military dictator, but to restore the institutions (of democracy) it has been drilled into defending since birth.”
You have insinuated that such an Army had attempted a coup. Can there be a worse form of betrayal? God alone knows what your motives are? Yet may God bless you.
With anguish in my heart, I am copying this to some of your colleagues and some others for whatever it is worth.