Brig PS Gothra (Retd)
“Don’t pull the trigger Saab,” said Subedar Pradhan as I was aiming at the head of the man seen on the telescope of sniper rifle.
By three in the morning on that cold night, we were in place to look for terrorist movement in the forest across the hill. The operation was planned based on the information given by a ‘source’ that there was a hideout of terrorists in that jungle.
“Because, I feel that person is innocent,” replied Pradhan.
“Innocent? Why would an innocent man be there in that jungle fifteen minutes before sunlight when the curfew is in place. Now he is sitting there on that log. Don’t you feel he is the lookout man of the terrorists?”
“Still, it doesn’t prove that he is a terrorist,” replied Pradhan.
I didn’t have an answer to that. So, I kept looking through the scope. A bit more light and I felt the proof was there. I could see his ‘Phiren’ a bit higher on the left side of the shoulder. So, I said, “Saab just use your binoculars. Can you see he is hiding his weapon under his Phiren on the left shoulder?”
“Yes, there is something there. But that doesn’t prove that it is a weapon.”
“Come on Saab, a terrorist will not brandish weapon in the jungles and invite you to kill him. We have to give something to our judgement. The cold is freezing us. Let’s finish it,” I said and started aiming again.
“Please Saab, let’s wait for another ten minutes.”
“So that we let the terrorist get away? We’ll wait for five minutes only. You keep a watch,” I said and lowered the rifle. Two minutes later I was daydreaming of my impending success. I was imagining people congratulating me. That included even the Brigade Commander. I already had two successful operations in the last seven months. My ambition was telling me that seniors may even recommend me for a Medal. That Medal will help me in my selection for the next rank. Next minute my ego was telling me as to why I was listening to Subedar Pradhan? After all, I am the boss on the ground. As an instructor in the Infantry School, I have trained so many Subedars like him.
Subedar Pradhan tapped my shoulder and said, “Saab, just have a look. I think it is time to pack up.”
Through the binoculars I could see the man cutting wood with an axe. I don’t know why he had hidden that axe under his ‘Phiren’.
On the move back to the post I was thinking that today my ego and ambition would have made me a criminal. Thank God Pradhan was there with me.
In the evening I narrated this to the Commanding Officer. After remaining quiet for two minutes he said, “Good job done, son. I am sending someone to relieve you. Proceed on leave for thirty-five days tomorrow itself. You have not gone on leave for seven months. You badly need it to regain your sensible judgement. As I see it, you have started enjoying the operations and that is the first sign of a soldier going wonky. In a helicopter, while flying very low the pilot starts getting into ecstasy and they say that as soon as you experience that feeling, take your bird up or you will crash in no time.”
Note:- From that day, while in operational areas, I ensured that my subordinates avail full entitlement of their leave at regular intervals.