Brig PS Gothra (Retd)
“Damn serious soldiering, Ravi?” heard Ravi as he felt a tap on his shoulder. He was picking up a mug to pour tea for himself in Batote TCP. It was Major Anil, his course mate and neighbour in the separated family accommodation. Nine months ago, they had travelled together to join their respective RR units.
Before Ravi could answer Anil said, “Looks you are pretty busy in these ruthless mountains of Doda. Your wife told me you haven’t gone on leave all these days. I am coming back from my third leave since I joined RR. In fact, seeing you barely coming on leave, my wife has started feeling that I am not sincere to my duty,” said Major Anil jokingly.
“Yaar, I got stuck in something.”
“So, heading back to your family or staying with your parents for a day or two?” Asked Major Anil.
“I am going down south for a couple of days and then I will go to my place.”
“I hope it is not an extra marital affair. It doesn’t look like you have one.”
“I have to meet the parents of Sepoy Raju, my soldier whom I lost in an operation against terrorists.”.
“Did this happen recently?”
“It happened seven months ago.”
“Then you should have gone to them earlier.”
“All these days I was waiting to kill the terrorist who had fired on Raju. Fortunately, the terrorist was killed last week by our neighbouring battalion.”
“We lost so many men in our fire fight, that doesn’t mean we will not avail our leave till all the terrorists are killed.”
“Raju was special, I had his debt which I can only partially repay by killing his killer.”
“What debt man, Army Act forbids taking any loan from fellow soldiers.”
“I think I will have to narrate the circumstances under which we lost Raju, only then you will be able to understand. It was a cold dark night and I got information that three terrorists are hiding in a hamlet on top of the mountain. Although I had a fever, I took my team and after briefing them started for the place. As it was a difficult climb my speed of climbing was a bit slow. On the way there were four cowsheds. I felt something fishy so I decided to search those cowsheds. We could not find anything in the first two.
\When we were ready to break into the third one someone held my hand from behind. It was Raju. He whispered that since I was not well my movements may be sluggish. That is not good for the operation. So he insisted on taking my place and let him go in first. As he came in front, a terrorist ran out from the shed firing his weapon towards us. Next ten minutes we tried to get him but to no avail. The tall maize plantation fully masked our observation. When I took stock of the situation, I found Raju was injured as a bullet fired by the terrorist had hit him on the side of the stomach and exited on the other side of the chest puncturing his lung. We evacuated him to the battalion headquarters. But he breathed his last while being evacuated to the command hospital.”
“So, you called off the operation?”
“I had blood on my head so we pressed on and went up to the hamlet which we were supposed to search initially. In an encounter which lasted for six hours we were able to kill two terrorists.”
“So, the same terrorists had reached there?”
“No, these were different sets of terrorists. From our intelligence sources we came to know that it was Salim, a Pakistani terrorist who had killed Raju. So, I didn’t rest from that day. Salim left our area and started operating in our neighbouring battalions’ area. I kept engaging my informers and finally based on the information gathered by me the neighbouring battalion was able to eliminate Salim. I feel that Raju had taken the bullet meant for me and I owe my life to him.”
“Indeed, it is a very heavy debt which you can never redeem. But I suggest you don’t vividly describe the circumstances of Raju’s sacrifice. Just hug his parents and tell them that their son was a very brave man,” said Anil and rushed out to board the Srinagar bound JKT Bus.
This is a true story and the protagonist insisted on hiding all the names as he didn’t want any accolades. Such is the officer-men relationship and the selflessness displayed by the officer and the Jawans. But recently seeing the slogan shouting by some ex-servicemen at some CSD canteen sent me on a introspection trip. What has gone wrong? Is the aspirations of our soldiers increasing? Is our leadership being a mute spectator in curtailing privileges of faujis? Are the jawans aping the rabid selfishness displayed by some of our leaders in terms of seeking favours? How do we set things right from here on?