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Looking at Army-police relationship
By Pritam Bhullar

REGRETTABLY, the Punjab Government has not complied with the State Human Rights Commission’s (PSHRC’s) directions that Lt-Col K.S. Sooch (a serving Army officer) who was brutally beaten up by four police personnel, should be paid Rs 1 lakh as interim compensation within four weeks.

The PSHRC had also directed the Punjab Government to file chargesheets by October 28 against the police personnel who the Commission felt had beaten the Colonel "like an animal".

On April 14, 1998, Lt-Col Sooch along with his wife, son and sister-in-law had gone to eat at a dhaba near Jalandhar. The police personnel, who were also eating there pounced on the colonel when he protested against the bad service at the dhaba, despite his showing them his identity card. The beating continued even at the Sadar Police Station in Phagwara, resulting in multiple injuries.

According to the medical reports of the civil and military hospital at Jalandhar, the Colonel had suffered ten injuries, including fracture of humerus which was declared grievous. The medical report also says: "All these injuries were caused with a blunt weapon". As per the report, after tying his hands at the back in the vehicle, the cops again started beating him with rifle butts and rained kicks and hand blows on him.

The PSHRC’s report also says that the humiliation and physical trauma suffered by Lt-Col Sooch, a senior Army officer, and that too at the hands of the law enforcing agency "is unfathomable".

It is sad that the police waywardness towards the Army has been taken so lightly by the Punjab Government. What must be remembered is that such incidents embitter the relationship between the Army and the police.

Caring for jawans

Good officer-man relationship can do wonders in building high morale which is a battle winning factor. General Patton once said that the rank that an officer wears on his coat is really a symbol of servitude to his men. An officer commands his men better by serving them and he serves them better by caring for them and it is this human aspect on which the officer-man relationship rests, the General remarked.

To dislodge the Pakistani intruders from the dominating heights in the Kargil sector was a formidable task, especially when our troops were not so well equipped. What turned this task into our success was the example set by our junior officers, most of whom cared for their men more than they cared for themselves. And this worked like a tonic that persuaded the jawans not to stumble in their task.

General V.P. Malik Chief of the Army Staff, being the head of the Army, had his own role to play in the Kargil war. He paid many visits to the sector to be with the troops and to acknowledge and appreciate the difficult task that they were accomplishing at the cost of their lives. This kindled their fighting spirit and the Indian Army achieved what many other armies would not have been able to achieve. No wonder the army hierarchy in Pakistan did not expect us to evict the intruders from the Kargil sector and that to in such a short time.

Training in mines

Unfortunately, one Major and two jawans were killed and two jawans were seriously injured during a live mine training accident in Bathinda on October 18. While accidents during training cannot be totally ruled out, their occurrence always proves that one precaution or the other was overlooked in handling of mines.

More often than not, officers, JCOs and jawans of all arms and services, barring the engineers, harbour a psychological fear that an accident will occur if they handle live mines. This fear must be dispelled by extensively training them on dummy mines. And until they develop full confidence, they should not be allowed to handle live mines.

In the 1965 War in Kutch sector, we suffered many mine casualties. An added reason, apart from lack of proper training, for these casualities was total absence of landmarks in the sandy and sparsely populated Rann of Kutch.

The then General Officer Commanding (GOC) in that sector Lt-Gen P.O. Dunn, was so strict about laying and lifting of mines that he would flying to infantry battalions’ locations to personally check their minefield layout. Some of the Commanding Officers (COs) were found ignorant about their mine layout, while some others thought that even laying of protective mines was an engineer task. Two COs were sacked by him because of their lack of knowledge about the minefields in their areas.

There is no short cut to proper training in mines. This point was so well brought home to officers who served under Gen Dunn that it helped them in saving the lives of their troops throughout their service.

Regiment of the brave

For its heroic performance in the capture of Tiger Hill in Dras sub-sector in July, 8 Sikh was honoured with the title of "Regiment of Braves" by the Chief Minister of Punjab Parkash Singh Badal on October 25 at Chandigarh. While praising the unit for its valour, Badal said: "Brave Punjabis always fought bravely on the front...."

In this operation, 8 Sikh lost 34 killed, including one officer, three JCOs and 30 jawans. The capture of Tiger Hill with its unclimbable cliffs and rocky surface which needed more than an indomitable courage and undaunted spirit, has gone into history as a rare feat in warfare.

Incidentally, the Sikh Regiment has the highest tally of gallantry awards in the Indian Army. Not only that, even in the British Indian Army, it had an unparalleled record of winning 9 Victoria Crosses (VCs) and 34 Military Crosses (MCs).

A memorable act of rare bravery and reckless courage of 21 men of the regiment was the battle of Saragarhi in 1897, in which they fought against thousands of tribals till the last man and last round. The British Parliament gave a standing ovation to these heroes when this act of unprecedented bravery was narrated to it. And an immediate award of IOM to each of the Saragarhi heroes was announced in Parliament. Besides, each one of them was given an award of two squares of land and Rs 500 (considered to be a big amount in those days).Back

This feature was published on December 12, 1999

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