Thursday, January 24, 2013

Don't dishonour a brave soldier*

Lt-Gen HarwantSingh ( Retd )

The news that the gurdwara in Panchkula (Haryana) had  refused to hold the ‘Barsi‘ ceremony of late Lt-Gen RS Dayal, MVC, has  sent shock waves amongst the serving and the retired defence personnel.  General Dayal was the chief of staff, Western Command, which carried out  ‘Operation Blue Star,’ in 1984 at the Golden Temple, Amritsar, to flush out  terrorists who had turned it into an armed fortress. Undoubtedly, Sikhs had made great sacrifices and waged endless struggle, often under very trying conditions, to up hold the sanctity of their holiest shrine. But the occupation of the Shrine by a group of terrorists who were carrying out all manners of nefarious activities was in itself a sacrilege.

Terrorists armed to the teeth had taken shelter in the Golden Temple, from where diktats were being issued to carry out various terrorist activities all over Punjab. Though Police, state and central, had laid siege to the temple, yet all manner of weapons, including rocket launchers and machine guns, had found their way into the precincts of the Temple. A DIG rank officer of the police was shot just outside the Temple gate and the killers had taken shelter inside the Golden Temple, but the police dared not follow them into the temple nor later trace the murderers. Such then was the fear of the terrorists who had taken hold of the Golden Temple. It was under such dismal and distressing state of affairs and the complete failure of the state machinery to uphold the law of the land that the government decided to deploy the army to clear the terrorists from the Temple.

Since the ‘Bhog’ ceremony was held in the same gurdwara, so  this refusal to hold ‘Barsi’ could have been due to some external pressure!  With the refusal by the sector 7 gurdwara to conduct the prayers at the  ‘Barsi’ ceremony, the same had to be conducted at the officer’s residence:  with the help of ‘granthis’ from the army. SPGC president, Avtar Singh  Makkar has tried to justify the decision of the management of sector 7 Gurdwara on the grounds that the general had played a role in ‘Operation  Blue Star,’ which had hurt the sentiments of Sikh community all over the  world! In the first place how did the SGPC allow the terrorists to occupy  the Temple and desecrate it, unless it itself was terrorized by those  terrorists!

Indian soldiers are God fearing and highly religious. Units lay great emphasis on troops to follow the religious tenants and certain rituals. However when it comes to performance of duty, where they have to act against their co-religionists, there can be no holding back. It is their allegiance to the Constitution which over-rides all other considerations. It may be recalled that a video clipping during the Babri Masjid demolition, showed a squad of police personnel, when ordered to open fire, turned about and declined to act. That clipping was subsequently never played. Surely no right thinking Indian would want the military to act in a similar fashion.

I spent considerable time interviewing Gen Dayal, before  writing a two part article on Blue Star. He was visibly moved in recounting  the events leading to operation Blue Star. He was obviously concerned, like  any other devout Sikh at mounting this operation against the Holiest Sikh  shrine. On one part was the issue of clearing the Temple of elements who,  from all accounts by their very acts were violating the Sikh ‘Maryada’ and on the other part, as a soldier there was no way he could disobey orders. Any such attempt would have delivered a grievous blow to the very ethos and  discipline in the military and was unthinkable to him. He maintained that  religion cannot be allowed to override the demands of duty and discipline.  It is another matter that the operation itself could have been planned  better and conducted with some degree of ingenuity and skill by those who  carried it out.

Lt-Gen RS Dayal was no ordinary soldier. He was a national hero  and winner of the second highest gallantry award. He was a brave man for  whom duty itself was religion and a matter of faith. He had shown his  mettle in the capture of Hajipir Pass against very heavy odds. His role in  Operation Blue Star was such that any other devout Sikh soldier would have ungrudgingly undertaken.

The Sikh clergy has done a great disservice to the community and Sikh soldiery by refusing to give permission to hold the ‘Bhog’ ceremony in a gurdwara for this gallant soldier who did nothing more than to follow his oath to abide by the Constitution of the country.

The views expressed by the author are his personal

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