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The tortuous life of jawans at Siachen

A J. Philip has portrayed a perceptive and understanding picture of the life of the jawans at Siachen (“Land of roses”, Spectrum, Nov 9). Having been at Kargil and commanded large mountain formations in high altitude, one is aware of the problems one confronts. These include, among others, acute loneliness, difficulty in breathing, cases of pulmonary odema, snow blindness, no fresh vegetables and greens, delayed mail, and families forced to stay on “separate accommodation” for years.

My wife and children had to suffer such living in Chandigarh twice over and one can imagine the case of jawans today when the joint family system of living together in villages and towns has vanished altogether. Yet, the niggardly attitude of the government to the jawans’ salaries and pension as doled out in the Sixth Pay Commission report seems to be our only fate.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram should read this article, if they have missed it out, so that they can come to grips with reality and do what must be done for the soldiery that they often swear by so frequently.

A quick flying visit by a minister for an hour or so to these regions does not give one the true picture of life at these terribly inhospitable heights. The government should start looking after the soldiers before it is too late.

Maj-Gen HIMMAT SINGH GILL (retd), Chandigarh

Inspiring story

In his article, Destination Leh (Spectrum, Nov 2), A.J. Philip has shared his knowledge of historical events with the readers. The story of General Zoravar Singh is the most inspiring. He was an excellent military strategist and was popularly known as the “Napoleon of India”. I personally feel that his stature was much higher than that of Napoleon as the latter never faced hardships that Gen. Zorawar Singh had to face.

Gen. Zorawar Singh was born on April 13, 1786 and died on December 12, 1841. He belonged to a village near Bhalloon in Nadaun tehsil. He fled from home in his childhood to have a better life. His friend, Dilawar Singh, promised to join him on his next visit to the village. Zorawar Singh joined the army of Maharaja Gulab Singh and rose to the rank of a General. Meanwhile, Dilawar Singh got married and had a son, but he kept his promise to his friend and joined the ruler’s army.

During the assault on Tibet, his army faced freezing cold. The soldiers used gunny bags to cover their feet but that hardly saved them from frostbite. He was about to attack Tibet when an enemy soldier, disguised as a guide, misguided him and as a result many of his soldiers were killed or maimed and he was defeated. But such was his grit and bravery that the victorious army of the enemy constructed a memorial to pay tribute to him.

The story of Dilawar Singh, who was a Colonel in Zorawar Singh’s army, was narrated to me in 1939 by Dilawar Singh’s great grandson the late Nand Singh, a veteran of First World War.

Nand Singh’s elder son the late Prem Singh had participated in Second World War and the youngest, Brig Lal Chand Jaswal (retd) was in service during 1965 and 1971 wars. The credit of celebrating the birth anniversary of Gen. Zorawar Singh on April 13 every year goes to Brig Lal Chand Jaswal, a fifth generation soldier. His son, too, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army.



The article is exhaustive and informative. But his narrative about Gen. Zorawar Singh Kahluria is factually and historically incorrect. No doubt, Gen Kahluria was courageous and a great military strategist.

The General undertook the Tibet expedition when Jammu and Kashmir was part of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s empire and Gulab Singh was the senior most functionary of the Maharaja with the title of Raja.

After Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death in 1839, the British Army defeated Sikh Army in two wars and annexed Punjab in British Empire in 1845. At that time, Raja Gulab Singh bought Jammu and Kashmir for a princely sum of Rs 70 lakh and became the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Khushwant Singh’s History of Sikhs has the details.

H.S. BADHAN, Dasuya (Hoshiarpur)

Truth about spirituality

In his piece Spiritual wisdom( Spectrum, Oct 26), Randeep Wadehra writes “you can be spiritual without being religious”. I can’t agree with this as one can’t be spiritual without being religious. An atheist, a disbeliever in religion, a savage or any person who despises religion can never be spiritual.

Such persons may acquire high moral qualities but these are just natural conditions, which may be possessed even by those who deny the existence of God or hate religion. Many animals have a gentle disposition, and can be trained to become wholly peaceful and not to react savagely to chastisement, and yet we cannot call them human. In the same way, a person who is entirely misguided and even has certain vices can exhibit good moral qualities. But in no way can he be called a spiritual person. Hypnotism or mesmerism is not a synonym of spiritualism.

Those who are transported into a trance by artificial means think that they have experienced spiritualism. Such people are utterly ignorant about spirituality.

Spirituality means enlightenment of soul and heart. It means realisation of self and immersing one’s soul in the ocean of love of God. Spirituality minus God is only ritualism. So mere acquisition of moral qualities does not bestow spiritual life upon a person. Spirituality can be attained only through the use of every moral quality in its proper place and on a proper occasion, and through treading faithfully on the way shown by God and through being wholly devoted to him. I have borrowed these ideas about spirituality from the writings of the founder of the Ahmadiya Muslim Jamat Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian.

As all oscillatory motions are periodic but all periodic motions are not oscillatory, so all spiritual persons are religious, but all religious persons are not spiritual or an irreligious person can never be spiritual through he may possess high moral qualities. Belief in God is a pre-condition to attain spirituality.


No link with martyr

In Revolutionary to the core (Saturday Extra, Aug 2) it was mentioned that Durga Dass Khanna worked in close coordination with martyrs Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev. This is incorrect. Durga Dass Khanna was from Bhagowal village (near Batala, Gurdaspur district). He remained in money-lending business. He had no association with martyrs Bhagat Singh and Sukhdev.

On the contrary, when the British government conducted a trial against Bhagat Singh and his colleagues, Durga Dass Khanna, appeared as a witness for the British government, and on his testimony Bhagat Singh and his colleagues were hanged to death.

This fact may be ascertained from the records of Lahore court, where the trial was conducted. Durga Dass joined the Congress in 1948 and reaped the benefits. He was not sentenced to death but died due to sickness.

H.M. NASRANI, Pathankot

Build a barrage

Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal (Spectrum, Oct 19) has been doing his best to keep the Kali Bein neat and clean for the past several years. The bein is very important to the Sikhs as Guru Nanak got spiritual enlightenment at its banks in Sultanpur Lodhi.

The bein once used to be perennial but now water flows through it only during the rainy season and rest of the year stagnating water, hyacinth and dirt accumulate in it and creates stink.

The cross-regulator bridge, which was got constructed by Maharaja of Kapurthala over the bein at Kanjli some 120 years ago, collapsed a year back. Although it was in a dangerously precarious condition for quite some time, the administration chose to turn a blind eye to it.

The bein can remain neat and clean provided a small barrage is built at its source at Beas a few kilometres northwest of Dasuya to regulate the flow of water in the bein.n




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