Sanjha Morcha


The amazing story of Sonam Post
Team at Sonam Post from where Hanumanthappa was found alive.
By: Brigadier Narender Kumar

10 soldiers lost their lives at Sonam Post in Siachen. Here is the story how the post got its name from an unassuming officer who first occupied it in a break-neck race with Pakistan in 1984

Sonam Post, the site where 10 valiant soldiers (including three from Karnataka) of 19 Madras regiment lost their lives in an avalanche has been thrust into national limelight. The post got its name from the simple unassuming non-commissioned officer (NCO) who first occupied it in a break-neck race with the Pakistanis way back in 1984.

I was an instructor at the High Altitude Warfare School, and I vividly remember the Deputy Commandant, Brig (then Col) Pushkar Chand telling us how he and his team were tasked to occupy Siachen Glacier (Saltoro Ridge) in 1984. He was given no time to prepare because the Pakistani Special Forces were already heading to occupy it and it was a race against time and weather.

Volunteer young officers from Northern Command and from other commands were selected under the high risk mission, because the enemy here was not only the Pakistan Army but the terrain and the extreme weather. They were tasked to lead detachments of troops from Ladakh Scouts, Kumaon Regiment and Special Forces to occupy the crucial positions on Saltoro Ridge before the Pakistanis could get there. They had limited glacier clothing and their high altitude equipment was rudimentary at best.

Troops started moving forward to reach the Saltoro Ridge fastest. The Indian Army beat the Pakistani Army to occupy the positions by a mere three days and in spite of a long arduous route, the gritty young officers led the troops to the highest battle ground on earth.

Havildar Sonam was part of a patrol that had an officer as a patrol leader. While approaching the given location, the patrol leader fell into a crevasse and injured himself badly. There was no way the officer could be evacuated by helicopter. Col Pushkar ordered that the patrol be split and one party evacuate the injured officer and the second under Havildar Sonam continue towards the position it was to occupy.

Sonam, a gritty Nunu (Ladakhi soldier), led from the front and reached the designated location. He and his small band had just a few snow tents which were of no use against the blistering winds that swooped around them. He ordered them to dig tunnels beneath the ice to protect them from the chilly winds. They were soon detected and came under heavy artillery firing by the Pakistanis. The tunnels they had dug saved them from the shelling.

Though he could not see where the enemy fire was coming from, Sonam realised that he would have to retaliate. He, along with two of his colleagues, climbed to a vantage point so he could see where the enemy fire was coming from. That evening, when Col Pushkar spoke to him on radio, he told him that he had seen the enemy mortar position and requested for artillery fire to engage it. The predicament was that Sonam had no clue how to control the artillery fire and it took a great deal of ingenuity for him to be able to give out the enemy positions and then report the fall of shots to successfully engage the enemy position.

Sonam and his men remained at the post for over six months without relief, since whenever they attempted to move, the enemy would fire at them. But the intrepid soldiers remained there uncomplainingly, undergoing hardships that would have broken any others.

Brig Pushkar recounted how the name Sonam Post came about. When he asked Sonam what the grid reference of his location was, Sonam confided that he had no clue how to read the map and grid references. Brig Pushkar joked with him on the radio set and told him, “Sonam I am not worried if you are taken by enemy as prisoner, because you would reveal no information since you know nothing.” He told him, “Sonam, whenever you give the report, you will say ‘Sonam Post all OK’ “. And that was how Sonam Post got its name.

A few years later, Sonam was posted to the High Altitude Warfare School in Gulmarg as the administrative NCO in-charge of the student officers’ mess. I, as a young officer, was the Mess Secretary. Every month, there would be losses since poor Sonam knew nothing about managing a mess, or of accounting and budgeting. Fed up with continual losses, I complained to Brig Pushkar to remove him and was told to get him to his office.

Yet, when Sonam entered Brig Pushkar’s office, I was surprised to see what happened. Brig Pushkar got up from his chair and hugged him like a long-lost friend. He forgot why he asked Sonam to come to his office and he asked him, did he know that he was the Deputy Commandant of HAWS? He further scolded him, why did he not come to meet him? Sonam smiled and did not utter a word. Then he told me about Sonam’s role in helping secure Sonam Post way back in 1984 and my own anger turned into respect.

The same evening I went to the mess and called all student officers. There I introduced this unknown hero to them and asked them to interact with him and understand the practical part of soldiering in extreme weather and terrain conditions. Every student officer rose after I finished introducing Sonam to them and came forward to shake hands with a true soldier.

Later, I would often see young officers surrounding Sonam and hearing his experience of Siachen. He would often say, “Sahib Lama Guru ke Land Main Gama Nahin Banna”. Being an instructor in an High Altitude Warfare School, you are supposed to be a class apart and the best in business in the world. I was an arrogant professional, but one day while training on the glacier, Sonam saw me rushing up the ice wall during a demonstration. After the demonstration when I was sipping tea, Sonam walked up to me and told me, “Sahib, don’t show your speed on ice wall, it does not give you a second chance and it also does not give you time to recover. Therefore, be like an Ibex, sure-footed”. It was a lifelong lesson that saved me from committing hara-kiri someday.
Later, it was decided to put up his portrait (dressed in full mountaineer gear) in the officers’ mess. When this ceremony was organized, the entire staff and officers including families were present. And there was this short stocky man, standing between the Commandant and Deputy Commandant, receiving perhaps the only recognition for his achievements. A simple photograph in the Officers’ Mess to honour his deeds.

There are so many Sonams who have done their duty selflessly at these forbidding heights. The ten Thambis of 19 Madras who laid down their lives on the post were also like him, simple men soldiering on selflessly in unimaginable hardships. Perhaps the avalanche that swamped Sonam Post helped rouse the national consciousness of the conditions our soldiers undergo to preserve the national integrity. There are thousands like Sonam and Hanumanthappa Koppad and nameless others who merely do their duty without reward or recognition. This piece is just a small salute to them all.

Brig Narender Kumar (Retd.) is the Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies – CLAWS, New Delhi. This article was firts published in the defence journal, Indian Defence Review

Chakrata native is Coast Guard Director General

Chakrata native is Coast Guard Director General
Rajendra Singh

Tribune News Service

Dehradun, February 26 Rajendra Singh, an Additional Director General of the Indian Coast Guard, has been designated Director General of the Indian Coast Guard. He hails from Uttarakhand.Rajendra was born in Chakrata in Dehradun district and completed his primary and secondary schooling from Mussoorie. He graduated from HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar.The Flag Officer joined the Indian Coast Guard way back in 1980 when the service was being established. He is among a few serving officers who had not only been witness to Coast Guard’s growth through the years but has also contributed significantly to it.Rajendra Singh had the rare opportunity to command each class of Coast Guard ships in service, including the Interceptor Boat, Inshore Patrol Vessel, Fast Patrol Vessel, Offshore Patrol Vessel and Advanced Offshore Patrol Vessel.In the eighties, when smuggling was at its peak in the Indian waters and was a major concern for the nation, Rajendra Singh was actively involved in apprehending numerous maritime economic offenders. He was awarded Tatrakshak Medal by the then President on August 15, 1990. He had the opportunity of leading both eastern and western fronts. His distinguished service was duly acknowledged as he was awarded the President’s Tatrakshak Medal (PTM) on August 15, 2007.

Bury your BP in the kitchen::VETERANS INFO

Bury your BP in the kitchen
Photo source: Thinkstock

Don’t let the high blood pressure that you have been diagnosed with scare you out of your wits. It is not exactly a disease, but only a warning sign that the food you have been eating and the lifestyle you have been leading have clogged your blood vessels and your heart is having to exert extra pressure to keep blood moving through it.Just as the bad lifestyle caused it, the good one can cure it. Medicines are only an aid. The main job has to be done by your food and those are quite tasty to boot. So please go into your kitchen for treatment. Certain bounties of nature are excellent in opening up your arteries and those should be a regular part of your diet from now.The most potent of them is beetroot juice. A glass of this shimmering liquid should be a daily part of your intake for life. Treat this as your daily medicine. You might see a drop in your readings in as little as three hours.Beets are full of nitrates which cause blood vessels to expand. Besides reducing BP, these eliminate toxins. Taking nitrate in natural form is a hundred times better than taking a nitrate tablet.Nitrites in killer foods like hot dogs gave you the disease; nitrates will cure it.Those who happen to have kidney issues should mix it with carrot juice. Regular use may give a sharp colour to your urine. Don’t be scared. That is completely harmless.Please note that the results will not come in a day. It took you some 15 years to clog your arteries. Please give your system at least 15 months to undo the damage. Of course, medicines can show results in a matter of days but you have to account for side-effects also. So follow a two-pronged strategy. Let medicines do the SOS job. The long-term cure will come only through dietary wisdom.Another prescribed diet is blueberries, raspberries and strawberries. Natural compounds in them called anchocyanins are your insurance against hypertension. Eat them like crazy every day of your life. Fresh will be the best but the dried ones will also do. Besides, those are full of antioxidants.I know it will not make you very popular with friends but garlic too has to be added to your menu. The organosulphur compound allicin that it has reduces hypertension and is also antibacterial and anti fungal. The pungent clove is also very good for those with heart conditions.Other good foods for those with BP are bananas, dark chocolate (and I mean really dark, at least 85 percent), spinach, cabbage and coconut water. Plus spice up your food with rosemary, cumin seeds, cinnamon, basil, bay leaves, saffron, turmeric, ginger and black pepper.But the best antidote for blood pressure is weight management. If you are on the plump side, you are almost sending a written invitation to BP. — IANS

After gunfight, an extensive clean-up op Blasts heard as 20-30 rocket shells, grenades detonated in controlled environmen

After gunfight, an extensive clean-up op
The damaged JKEDI building after the gunfight ended at Sempora in Pulwama district of south Kashmir on Tuesday. Tribune Photo: Amin War

Azhar Qadri

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, February 23

Security forces began a lengthy clearance operation today to sanitise the multi-storey building at Sempora, which had been taken over by militants and turned into a bunker.The bomb disposal squads spent the entire day painstakingly searching for unexploded bombs and disposing those off.A police official said blasts were heard throughout the day and between 20 and 30 explosives — unexploded rocket shells and grenades — were detonated in a controlled environment.Sanitisation of the five-storey building, housing headquarters of the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI), was expected to be completed by the evening, he said.Explosives were strewn on the JKEDI campus during the past three days with security forces battling three militants who had taken over one of the three multi-storey buildings.The building where militants had taken shelter, housing offices of the JKEDI, suffered extensive damage during the past three days, drawing emotional laments from the institute’s employees.“It was really painful to see a state-of-the-art structure up in flames. It is not an office but a house to us, where we have spent our days like family,” said Azmat Hussain, a JKEDI employee.The gunbattle on the campus began on Saturday afternoon. Five security force personnel and one civilian were killed during the first two days in the paramilitary convoy ambush and subsequent gunbattle.Three militants holed up in the building were killed on Monday when security forces fired a barrage of rockets at the building.The three militants were later buried by police personnel in the Sheeri area of Baramulla district in north Kashmir, nearly 100 km from the gunbattle site.The police initially took the bodies to the Buniyar locality in Baramulla, but residents objected and told the police that many militants had already been buried there, said a police official.The police had recently stopped handing over bodies of foreign militants to civilians to avoid large processions during their funerals.Meanwhile, several localities in south Kashmir observed a shutdown over the death of the militants. The shutdown was observed in parts of Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam districts in south Kashmir.In Pampore, close to the site of the gunbattle, the police foiled an attempt by local residents to hold a funeral in absentia for the militant trio.This led to clashes between the two sides. However, funerals in absentia for the militants were organised in Tral, Awantipora and Samboora towns of south Kashmir.

Ex-servicemen to protest in Patiala

Tribune News Service,Chandigarh, February 18

A section of ex-servicemen have decided to hold a protest rally in Patiala on February 21. They say the non-implementation of the one-rank, one-pension (OROP) concept in full measure as approved in Parliament had caused discontentment in the defence community and lack of faith in the government. They said the future course of action would be announced in the rally.Speaking to mediapersons here today, Brig KS Kahlon (retd), president, All India Defence Brotherhood, said there were some anomalies in the orders issued by the government that had long-drawn ramifications and would create a wedge between the past and future retirees.Pointing out that are were “incongruities” in the OROP tables and the circular issued for implementation of OROP by the Principal Controller of Defence Accounts (PCDA), he said as per the orders issued by the Defence Ministry in November 2015, pensions of past retirees are to be fixed on the basis of 2013 retirees of the same rank and having the same length of service. However, in the circular issued by the PCDA this month, it has reintroduced the distinction between “rank last held” and “rank for pension”.Brig Kahlon said the Seventh Pay Commission had added fuel to the fire by “downgrading” the status of defence services vis-a-vis the civil services.He added that it was unfortunate that political leaders and bureaucrats had failed to comprehend the difficult service conditions even after 10 soldiers were recently killed in Siachen.

The issue

  • They say the non-implementation of the one-rank, one-pension (OROP) concept in full measure as approved in Parliament had caused discontentment in the defence community and lack of faith in the government

How the story of Siachen began and why it is important


How the story of Siachen began and why it is important

New Delhi: Brigadier Varinder Singh’s unfinished handwritten manuscript was meant to be an account of the Indian Army’s capture of Pakistan’s Quaid Post from Sonam, where one soldier out of 10 survived an avalanche last week.

The brigadier died in 2012 doing what he loved best -playing basketball in a Noida court.

Lance Naik Hanamanthappa Koppad, of 19 Madras, now tenuously hanging on to life at the army’s Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi, was flown down from Sonam. He continues a tradition set nearly 30 years back by Major Varinder Singh and his band of brothers from the 8 JAKLI (Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry).

In June 1987, Varinder Singh was the major who led the company of selected soldiers from his 8 JAKLI battalion up the ice wall from Sonam. Sonam is at 19,600 feet and surrounded by treacherous crevasses.

Their objective was a Pakistani position at more than 21,000 feet – 1,500 feet above. It was of strategic import. From the post named after their Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistani troops had a clear view of the glacier, and an Indian Army battalion headquarters at 16,000 feet.

They could monitor helicopter movement and pick out Indian soldiers and patrols. They could direct artillery fire. In May 1987, they killed nine of 13 Indian soldiers led by Lt Rajiv Pande, who were attempting to do what Maj. Varinder Singh finally succeeded in doing a month later.

The soldiers overran the post and turned the guns, which were aimed at India from the south to the north, to aim at Pakistan.

Subedar (now honorary captain) Bana Singh led the assault, finally killing the six injured Pakistani soldiers with grenades thrown into the shelter in which they were yelling from pain.

Bana Singh was awarded the highest gallantry award, the Param Vir Chakra, and is paraded every Republic Day and Army Day as the soldier to be adopted as role model for the Indian Army.

Varinder, the major who rose to be brigadier, was awarded the Vir Chakra for his leadership. The “saddle” in the ridgeline that overlooks Sonam, where the 10 soldiers were buried in the avalanche, is often referred to as “Viru” after him.

“It is such a waste, this war in the mountains,” his wife, Anita Singh, says in their house in southwest Delhi. She remembers the telegram from her husband’s comrade, Maj. R.K. Singh, through the Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) the next day that informed her of his injury.

“Viru OK. Stop. Came down. Stop. Had two drinks. Stop. Now in hospital. Stop. OK,” it said.

Anita reached the military hospital at Leh from Srinagar, where she was then living, on the morrow. Varinder recovered after 17 stitches and 15 days in the hospital.

Shrapnel from a Pakistani artillery fire had pierced Varinder’s torso and chest when he was leading the operation. Varinder writes in his account of a Subedar Sita Ram, radio operator, who used to describe Pakistani artillery shelling in words like ” Ravan ke dus laddoo gire, char airburst aur baki ground-burst. (Ten laddoos from Ravan have fallen, four were airbursts and the others hit the ground).”

After Pakistan lost the Quaid Post, they brought down heavy artillery on what used to be their own position to evict the Indians.

“What happened was ironical,” recalls Anita. “Because it is so cold up there, the blood around his wounds coagulated quickly and stopped him from haemorrhaging”.

Subedar (honorary Lieutenant) Girdhari Lal, who was in “Viru’s” team and now helps Anita run her business, recalls that the officer came down the hill using his right hand to staunch the wound and stop the bleeding.

Writing in The Telegraph on Wednesday, Lt Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain, former commanding officer of Indian troops of the Northern Siachen Glacier, estimates that the country spends about Rs 5 crore of taxpayers’ money to keep Operation Meghdoot running daily. Gen. Hasnain retired as military secretary in the Army Headquarters. Few would have more in-depth knowledge of the costs of military operations.

This does not take into account wages and allowances. One former financial officer in the defence ministry estimates that New Delhi spends up to Rs 1,500 crore a month to sustain troops on the Siachen Glacier.

This includes fuel to keep helicopters flying, transportation, specialised garments and equipment, food, medicines, oxygen cylinders, Hapo (high altitude pulmonary oedema, that is the commonest ailment up there) bags that are sometimes used to turn milk into curd, boots, snow scooters and weather forecasting machines. For every battalion posted up there, there are three in training to acclimatise for the cold and the altitudes.

The real costs, however, take the heaviest toll in the minds and bodies of the men and the women through personal physical presence at those heights or through emotional bonds, like Anita’s.

Those bonds are so strong that they sustain after death. Yesterday evening, in her flat, Subedar Girdhari Lal and former Subedar Major (honorary Lieutenant) Onkar Chand Bakshi were there to share her story with this newspaper.

The former junior commissioned officers (JCOs) were two of Maj. Varinder Singh’s handpicked and trusted soldiers for the assault to capture the Quaid Post.

“We all wrote our last letters and carried them in our pockets at the time of the assault,” says Bakshi. “So did Sahab”. Major Varinder Singh had instructed his men to write their last letters in case they did not survive. He wrote one to Anita too.

“I wanted to read it but he tore it and threw it away,” she laughs now. “‘No point,’ he said, ‘because I’m still living, in case you haven’t noticed’.”

The 8 JAKLI troops were training for the operation since March of that year. Three attempts had failed. But Rajiv Pande’s men had managed to drive pitons on the cliff up to 10 metres short of the saddle.

The rope was passed through karabiners (coupling links) all the way down to the base just behind the Sonam post. It still took the men two days to find the rope that was buried after snow blizzards. They hoisted themselves to the saddle in two nights and then Varinder and his men fought their way along the knife-edged ridge to take out the Pakistani post.

Girdhari Lal recalls that something actually went wrong. The initial plan was to go around the Quaid Post and take out its base camp that sustained the Pakistani men at the top. But the plan was changed, probably because the Pakistanis got wind of it, and it was decided to go for the Quaid Post straightaway.

The Quaid Post was targeted by Indian artillery fire from Sonam and another position behind it. The shelling had to be stopped for the men to clamber over.

“Our beards and moustaches had gone white from the snow. And the snow had gone black from the shelling and the firing,” says Girdhari.

Since the Indian soldiers under Varinder were to get into Pakistani-controlled territory, they were told to ensure that no one was captured alive.

Humlog LTTE walon ki tarah cyanide capsules leke gaye the,” says Bakshi. The orders were to commit suicide if there was the possibility of capture.

Anita listens to the account in stoic silence. The understanding that her husband was ready to die like a guerrilla has been with her for years. But she did not know then.

Beautifully written in a slanting hand, in his never-to-be-finished manuscript, Varinder recalls the orders: “It was late evening when I reached and went straight to the Commanding Officer’s hut. Late Col A.P. Rai, UYSM, was in the throes of a head massage but it was not difficult to see a mix of remorse, anger and revenge on his face. A man of few words but he always conveyed his point implicitly. He came to the point right away – Quaid had to be captured and ‘revenge’ to be taken. The Gorkha and a Rai at that, had taken his decision though the generals conveyed it to us much later… I for one know I was going to lead the attack – there was no doubt in my mind.”

Varinder, a fifth-generation army officer, actually started rehearsing the assault at Sonam, at the base of the Pakistani post. Two soldiers were killed in the rehearsals, probably going down into crevasses. The bodies were not found.

Despite the training, Sepoy Jasbir Singh rolled down from the knife-edged ridge on the night of June 24 to the Pakistani side. He was probably shell-shocked from the firing by an Indian post, says Bakshi. “I brought him up on my shoulder,” he recalls.

“While we were going up to Quaid, we saw the bodies of five soldiers from the aborted attempt a month back,” says Girdhari. The cold and the snow preserve bodies well.

Alpha company, that Varinder led, climbed from the head of the rope to the saddle, trusting their crampons (metal plates with spikes fixed to the boots) on a sheer 10-metre ice wall. The basketballer showed the men how to do it. For three days, they had little to eat or drink.

“Sahab had given a strict order,” says Girdhari Lal. “No one was to go down (to Sonam). There were no bunkers. We burrowed in the snow. Our minds were wandering,” he says. “They used to hallucinate a lot,” says Anita.

“We used to ask one another’s names just to check that the brain is functioning. This happened to us earlier too. Once when I was trekking to Bela (another post), I lost my way in a barfila toofan (snow blizzard). We just had to wait it out. Then on another occasion, Rifleman Balwan Singh went from our tent to the cookhouse in an igloo to get food. He did not return,” says the honorary lieutenant.

At the saddle, Varinder and his men burnt camphor to heat their rifles. The rifles, mostly clunky old 7.62 SLRs at the time, would often not fire because the triggers jammed in the cold.

At 4.30 in the morning of June 26, 1987, the men crawled out of the saddle to link with an advance party of four that included Subedar Bana Singh.

The rest is history.

Since then the Indians have not been able to come down. The Pakistanis have not been able to go up. And a lance naik in the Research and Referral hospital battles for life after being given up for dead.

Harish Khare A test of our nationalism Institutions need not be dragged into politicians’ brawls

A test of our nationalism
Sandeep Joshi

Recollect George Orwell and his wonderful 1946 essay, “Politics and the English Language”.  Recall his warning about the use of language in political discourse: “Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”  Orwell needs to be recalled to understand how the issues are being framed in the JNU battle, in particular the tendentious juxtapositioning of “martyred” jawans and the university dissenters. In the short-hand language of the television anchor, it is about choosing in the “Nine Martyrs versus Five Anti-Nationals” fight. The dictionary meaning of the word “martyr” is “someone who chooses to be put to death as an act of witness to their faith, rather than abandon his or her religious beliefs.” In the military vocabulary, a soldier who dies in a battlefield, fighting the enemy, is honoured and remembered as a martyr. The preferred word in India is “shaheed” as in the hauntingly memorable song sung by Lata Mangeshkar: Jo shaheed huen hain unki zara yaad karo qurbani. Death on the battlefield, in a face-to-face combat with the enemy, in defence of motherland. The most glorious death a soldier could wish for.However, to pit the nine soldiers who lost their lives in an avalanche in the treacherous Siachen heights against the JNU dissenters is definitely a bit of an Orwellian stretch. The death of a solider is a national loss, any day, any place. Nonetheless, every commander who has led his men in a battlefield would know the difference: laying down life, fighting and defying the enemy, is one kind of death, for which he recommends a medal for his dead comrade, and, an accidental death is in another category. Both are to be mourned, yet the two are separated by acts of bravery, valour and heroism. To confuse the two or to equate the two diminishes the glorious martyrdom of the Major Shaitan Singhs and Havildar Abdul Hamids.Any language that is not able to make a distinction between fighting the enemy and fighting the elements unwittingly lends itself to a larger project of militarisation of popular culture and political debate. Every thinking and serving or retired General would be feeling uncomfortable at this gross exaggeration of the loss.   Even more disquieting to all sober and sensible Generals would be enlisting of the “martyred” soldiers in an ugly political  battle that is ideological and against the grain of the constitutional and republican values.  The martyred jawans are being recruited as posthumous foot soldiers by political leaders  who flaunt their spurious deshbhakti. The Army as an institution must do everything possible to remain immune from this contamination.  The soldier who enlists in the armed forces undertakes — willingly and cheerfully — to fight and, if need be, lay down his life in defence of his motherland. He does not enlist himself to be made a partisan in the partisan battles among partisan politicians, each pretending to be a better deshbhakt and rashtravadi than the other. The question that we must be asking ourselves is: why as a nation do we seem to be succumbing to the vendors of nervous nationalism?  Why are we re-fighting battles that we have already fought and won? Indian unity, our sense of nationhood, our self-assurance and our capability to get the better of our detractors had long been established. We are far too sturdy, far too self-assured, far too resilient to feel threatened by a few “anti-national” slogans on the sprawling campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University.  We have always lived with pockets of secessionism. And we can take legitimate pride in the knowledge that the Indian democracy has successfully coopted yesterday’s secessionists. Even in Jammu and Kashmir, the BJP is in alliance with a political party that fifteen years ago would have been dubbed “secessionist”. And, this alliance is being mid-wifed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh! A definite intent seems to be at work in making a great and prolonged political spectacle out of the “anti-national” slogans. Some may find unconscionable the inspired ugliness that was on display at the Patiala House Court but it does seem to be part of a political and electoral strategy. The agenda is to draw wider and wider, what Milan Kundera calls the “national circle of intimacy”. The ruling establishment would demand that every artist, writer, intellectual, journalist, architect, painter, scholar enter this national circle of intimacy. And those who refuse or demur from entering this circle should be made to feel the Delhi Police Commissioner’s baton.    From Dadri to Hyderabad to JNU, the country is being subjected to majoritarian demands. In Dadri,  those speaking in the name of majority asserted a right to determine what one could eat or not eat; in Hyderabad they insisted on defining who is a Dalit and who is not a Dalit; and in JNU, they are clamorously reserving the right to sit in judgment over this or that citizen’s national loyalty. There is a familiar ring to this kind of insistent demands. European history is replete with blood and genocide because of demands made by organised thugs in the name of this or that majority. Eastern European countries still continue to experiment with the exacting and ugly terms of co-existence among communities. Only a few months ago, the country had found itself engaged in a fierce “intolerance” debate. Those handful of people speaking in the name of the majority arrogated to themselves the exclusive licence to decide what was to be allowed, how much was to be “tolerated”. That round between the illiberal and intolerant forces and the liberal and progressive voices subsided only after the functionaries of the Supreme Court assured that their protection would always be available for democratic values and dissent. The battle has been renewed again. The only difference this time is the invocation of “national” themes. Who is a “national” and who is not “national” would be decided by the OP Sharmas. “Sedition” has been bandied about all too easily and all too glibly.The judiciary would be called upon to step in. It must be hoped that those who man the Bench, individually and collectively, have come a long way from the time when a court felt that a death sentence would ease the national conscience. Judicial decision-making, hopefully, would maintain its distance from the dramas being enacted in the streets across the nation.Above all, the quality and content of our nationalism cannot be dictated by a demagogue. Nor can our nationalism be sustained and extracted by the state’s coercive instruments. Those driven by vote-bank politics should not be allowed to demean and diminish the nobility of Indian nationalism.

Remove anomalies in OROP: Ex-servicemen

Our Correspondent,Palampur, February 14

Vijay Singh Mankotia, president, state Ex-Servicemen League, and vice-president of the state Tourism Development Board, threatened to launch a statewide agitation if the Union Government failed to remove the anomalies in the One-Rank, One-Pension (OROP) scheme announced by it last year.Addressing an ex-servicemen’s rally here today, Mankotia said, “We have all resolved to continue our protest till the government removes the anomalies in the OROP scheme announced by it.He said veterans, heading the central body of ex-servicemen, had been seeking an appointment with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain the OROP issue. The way the pension scheme was announced by the Union Government had disappointed thousands of ex-servicemen who had failed to get any benefit under the scheme.Mankotia said the Union Government should not forget that soldiers serving on the border had been sacrificing their lives daily for the security, unity and integrity of the country. So, while granting them benefits under the scheme, no politics should be played and the Prime Minister should immediately remove all anomalies.Earlier, a number of agitating veterans objected to the government taking the calendar year 2013 instead of financial year 2013-14 for fixing the base.“The Defence Minister had earlier assured us that pensions would be given according to top of the pay scales, but now the government seemed to adopting some other concept,” they said.The ex-servicemen were also opposed to the formation of a one-man judicial commission and demanded that it should be consisted of three ex-servicemen, one serving officer and a bureaucrat.The protesting veterans have also demanded that the OROP should be independent of the Central Pay Commission and the concept should be in perpetuity.Rejecting the government’s proposal of pension revision every five years, they said our original demand was for revision of pension every year.They said the government had created confusion by including VRS in its announcement as it never existed in the defence forces.

All-woman Indian peacekeeping unit an inspiration: UN chief

All-woman Indian peacekeeping unit an inspiration: UN chief
In this file photo, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (L) is seen shaking hands with the Indian women CRPF contingent which takes care of her security in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. — PTI

United Nations, February 13

Hailing India’s women peacekeeping unit in Liberia as an inspiration for all, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said their conduct has served as an example of how women can help the world body in its efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse.“Through their unwavering performance, professionalism and discipline, including during the Ebola epidemic, these brave women gained the respect of both the government and the Liberian people,” the Secretary General’s spokesman said in a statement yesterday as the first-ever all-female police unit ended its operations after nine years.The 125 women and supporting personnel will return to India this weekend.According to the statement, Ban commended the Formed Police Unit (FPU) for their contributions in creating an environment for Liberia to assume fully its security responsibilities by June 30, 2016, as mandated by the Security Council.Through their work, they managed criminality, deterred sexual and gender-based violence and helped rebuild safety and confidence among the population, Ban said.Ban underscored that the conduct of the FPU served as an example of how the deployment of more female uniformed personnel can help the United Nations in its efforts to combat sexual exploitation and abuse.The Secretary-General thanked all the women who served in the FPU for inspiring all Liberians, as well as current and future generations of female police officers, and becoming role models for gender equality.He also paid tribute to the outstanding contribution of the Indian government in support of the United Nations peace operations. — PTI

Pak’s talk of demilitarising Siachen unwarranted: Army

Lt Gen Hooda: No reason to connect tragedy with troop withdrawal

Pak’s talk of  demilitarising Siachen unwarranted: Army
Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda

Ravi Krishnan Khajuria,Tribune News Service,Udhampur, February 12

Terming Pakistan’s suggestion of mutual demilitarisation of Siachen following the death of 10 Indian soldiers in an avalanche on February 3 as “unwarranted”, Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda today said he didn’t see any reason at all to connect the tragic incident to any withdrawal of troops from the glacier.Responding to media queries here after an investiture ceremony, he further said, “We are committed to defending our borders and we will continue to do so. That’s absolutely clear to us and there is absolutely no link.”General Hooda, however, said talks had been going on between India and Pakistan but there were some basic conditions that had to be met before any withdrawal could be spoken about.“Some of the basic conditions are not agreeable to Pakistan and therefore an agreement has not taken place. But for anybody to link the Siachen tragedy to withdrawal is absolutely unwarranted and incorrect,” he said.He said India’s stand was very clear on Siachen. “If withdrawal has to take place then actual positions on the ground that has our posts should be authenticated first and should be agreeable to both sides,” he said, adding that this first step was not agreeable to Pakistan and, therefore, an agreement has not taken place.Pakistan has for long been suggesting that India should demilitarise Siachen where it holds strategic heights since 1984 when New Delhi launched “Operation Meghdoot” to pre-empt Islamabad’s move of occupying the 74-km glacier.On Kashmiri youth joining militancy, Lt General Hooda said the Army would do everything possible for rehabilitation of Kashmiri militants provided they surrender and join the mainstream.“From the perspective of security parameters, infiltration is down, actually to one-third of what it was two years ago. A number of top terrorist leaders got killed but we need to view it in the larger perspective. For instance, recruitment is an area of concern for us,” he said.“It is not good that young recruits, who are supposed to be the future of the state and leaders of tomorrow, are actually joining militancy. Frankly, their life span is six months to one year from the day they join. So, it’s a tragedy and I think we all need to look at it,” he said.‘Militants must return to society’ Northern Command chief Lt Gen DS Hooda on Friday expressed serious concern over the disturbing trend of young educated Kashmiri youth going astray and turning into gun-wielding militants. He said the Army would do everything possible for rehabilitation of Kashmiri militants provided they surrender and join the mainstream. “Yes, surrender and come back to society, I am saying this openly today. Those, who have not committed heinous crimes, we will help them in their rehabilitation. We will help them in any respect but our appeal to them is that they should come back and join society.” said Lt General Hooda.

Govt turns down Army’s request for tax-free liquor

Samaan Lateef,Tribune News Service,Srinagar, February 12

The state government has turned down the Army’s proposal to exempt it from paying taxes levied on liquor.The Finance Department said the excise duty and import duty charged on liquor manufactured or imported for the Canteen Stores Department and paramilitary forces in the state was less than what was charged from civilians and there was no justification for reducing the import duty (on liquor) further.The Northern Command, during the Civil Military Liaison Conference, had moved a proposal before the state government stating that it should be exempted from paying tax on rum imported from other states of the country.The Finance Department, however, stated that the Army and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir were already “enjoying sizeable concessions” on excise and import duty.The State Excise Department on September 1, 2015, had issued a notification to revise the charges levied on Indian made foreign liquor, rum and beer meant for the use of civilians and security forces.As per the 2015 notification under the J&K Excise Act, 1958, the state government brought down the charges levied on liquor consumed by security forces by around 9 per cent in comparison to the charges levied on civilians.For civilians, the excise duty levied on per liter of super deluxe Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) is Rs 220 while as the state government charges only Rs 160 in excise duty for the same volume of liquor brand for security forces.Similarly, the state government levies import duty of Rs 30 per litre on all brands of the IMFL while as for security forces the import duty is Rs 20.The state government earns around Rs 2.25 crore per month in excise or import duty on liquor consumed by the security forces, an official told The Tribune.

‘No justification for reducing import duty’

  • The Finance Department has said the excise duty and import duty charged on liquor manufactured or imported for the Canteen Stores Department in the state was less than what was charged from civilians and there was no justification for reducing the import duty (on liquor) further
  • The Northern Command, during the Civil Military Liaison Conference, had moved a proposal before the state government stating that it should be exempted from paying tax on rum imported from other states of the country