Sun Tzu – Grand Daddy of War …

Posted on January 16, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, Personalities |

Sun Tzu’s Classic ‘On War’ was placed at the head of China’s Seven Military Classics on the collection’s creation in 1080 by Emperor Shenzong. It has long been the most influential strategy text in all East Asia Here are some noteworthy maxims …

1. Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

2. If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.

3. Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.

4. He who knows others is wise. He who knows himself is enlightened. To see things in the seed, that is genius.

5. He will win who knows when to fight, when not to fight.

6. To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

7. What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy. Pretend inferiority and encourage his arrogance.

8. Victorious warriors win first and the n go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

9. The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy’s not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him. Not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.

10. The opportunity to secure ourselves against defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.

11. Invincibility lies in the defence; the possibility of victory in the attack. If your opponent is of choleric temper, irritate him.

12. All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.


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GHURKA – A Story …

Posted on January 6, 2018. Filed under: Personalities |

It would be cold for at least another hour. Then, when the Sun peered over the hill and warmed the frozen earth, the frost would thaw and begin rising off the ground like sepulchral mist.

“It will be nice to feel the sun on my back,” thought Harkadhoj Limbu, for the winter months on Sukvah Tea Estate were long and cold.

The thousand acre property, which the British sahibs used to call a Garden, looked directly across the valley at another Company Property, the Pahar Tea Estate.

Pahar was not as pretty or as productive as Sukvah and it did not face the magnificent Kanchenjunga Snow Range.

The disadvantage of this majestic view was the cold wind that continually came off the mighty Himalayan massif. It filtered through the flesh and chilled the old arthritic bones – bones once splintered and mangled.

Harkadhoj Limbu’s body had faced more than its fair share of privation and hardship. The cold water he splashed on his face forced him to inhale sharply. One of these days, he thought wryly, he might inhale so hard there might not be enough strength left in him to exhale. Yet, it was a routine he had followed all his life.

There was a short interruption because of the war, which had kept him away from this little rivulet but that was many, many years ago. His wife Kanchi was alive then. So alive and so petite! His heart raced, as it always did, when he thought of her. He smiled a forlorn smile and pictured again that last time he saw her.

She was radiant in the throes of early pregnancy, with little Birbahadur in her belly. A son for whom she gave her life for without medical attention in her village, she had died at childbirth.

He had left the country resplendent in uniform and a salute that served as farewell. Removing his cap he had kissed Kanchi full on the lips before leaping into the military transport van filled with grinning Gurkha soldiers bound for lands across the Kala Pani – but before that they would be taken to the nearby temple first. A Priest’s blessings were essential before their Hindu beliefs allowed them to cross the Oceans and Seas that lay ahead.

His thoughts turned to his son, Birbahadur, who grew to manhood without the benefit of a mother. What a mother Kanchi would have made! A pity she wasn’t there when Birbahadur suffered rejection at Sandhurst, for colour-blindness was unacceptable at England’s prestigious Military College.

But spoiled by the blinkered love of a devoted father, Birbahadur took for granted the many sacrifices Harkadhoj had made to put him through College and architectural training abroad. He finally settled down as a fully qualified architect in Kathmandu – never to visit or acknowledge his father ever again.

Harkadhoj knew that his son was ashamed of him and that was fitting. He was, after all, a mere estate labourer while his son now mixed in exalted company – where Royalty and the Palace were not excluded. He still continued to enjoy his father’s pension. It had been essential when he was a student but although he didn’t need it anymore, it was there for the taking. After all, what would his father do with all that money?

Thinking of Birbhadur made him smile again. Harkadhoj was proud of his son. It was a pity that he couldn’t have become a Gurkha officer. How smart he would have looked in uniform, marching to the drums of a military band … He could still hear the strains of the bagpipes, from a bygone era, playing ‘Cock Of The North’ and his thoughts strayed to distant battlefields before returning to the present.

Today the Chairman, Peter Ross, would be visiting Sukvah Tea Garden. Peter Ross was a retired Gurkha officer was now the Managing Director of the Company. He would have liked to meet him but that wouldn’t be possible. Old folk, past retirement age and kept employed out of sympathy, would be tucked out of sight from any visiting dignitary. Instead they were to sickle weeds on a remote boundary bordering a tea field that had been hard pruned.

Pruning was an art. It was a job that Harkadhoj had been comfortable with in the old days. He had a natural ability with a knife. Most Gurkha’s did but he could, with a flick of the wrist, slice through a two-inch diameter stem of tough tea wood leaving the cut clean and smooth.

It was essential that it be smooth, without those visible marks made by less skilled pruners whose hacking would leave rough protrusions to serve as entry points for bacteria. Bacteria caused excessive die back on the pruned branches and sometimes even killed a hard pruned bush.

Now it hurt to even think of flicking his wrist with or without a knife in his hand. Involuntarily flexing his arm, he remembered the shock on the face of a large German soldier when his kukri had severed the head of his bayonet charging comrade in the thick of battle.

Hand to hand combat was the forte of the Gurkhas and even now his heart raced to the cry of ‘ayo gurkhali’ as they charged into pitched battle – their kukris held high … and then the blood dripping down shining steel blades.

The sun was beginning to paint the enormous mountain. Starting from the very peak, it began turning the ghostly ethereal snow into vibrant crimson – an enormous backdrop of blood. Beautiful as it was, Harkadhoj had seen enough blood during the war years to last his lifetime. He turned away, a sickness of old gnawing at his stomach.

The Sun completed its masterpiece and then began the earnest business of warming the frozen earth. The first rays of sunshine took the chill out of Harkadhoj’s body. He shivered as the clawing cold released him but each day it seemed to retain a little of his spirit. He knew that soon there would be nothing left to give.

With the warmth, blood began circulating. Tongues loosened and amidst the soft chatter of his companions, arms moved rhythmically wielding sickles in constantly changing arcs. Weeds cut down were left where they fell. It reminded him of the past. Everything reminded him of the past – then it were men who were mown down, to be left where they fell.

The mid-afternoon sun silenced the earlier drone of bees and arrested the chirping of birds. Such was the silence that Harkadhoj could hear faint voices from a mile away. There was little doubt to whom they belonged – the put-on airs of the Manger, John Benson and the softer cultured accents of the Chairman.

Something was wrong. He couldn’t put a finger on it until he realised that the voices were coming closer. But the visiting dignitary should not be coming in this direction. It was soon apparent that they were heading for this work spot. Perhaps the Chairman had insisted on following his instincts rather than being guided by John Benson.

“Very sensible”, thought Harkadhoj, “if that is the case.” But this was not so. Benson, overly keen to impress the Chairman, had got carried away with boasting about his achievements, that he had taken the wrong path through the Tea bushes and was soon at the last place he would have wanted to visit with his Chairman.

The work here was never up to standard. The old folk were no longer capable of whetting their implements to the required degree of sharpness and to bend that low, to cut grass and weed just above ground level, was impossible.

It was already too late when John Benson realised his predicament and he had nobody to blame but himself. His recourse predictably was to express astonishment and then rage at the poor quality of work.

“Yo ekdam naramro kaam ho!” He thundered. “Belight ma … ” Continuing in chaste Ghurkhali with a British ‘Lord Haw-Haw’ accent he said, “In England such work would be unacceptable. It is a pity that none of you have been to England. Little wonder then that India is in this sad state!”

Carried away by his eloquence, Benson thundered on, “You people have not seen good work. You never will see good work because you have never been to England!”

The haranguing continued for some time. His glasses glinted and his moustache bristled as fiercely as the noonday sun. Surreptitiously glancing at the Chairman to see what impact he had made, he glared defiantly at the workers.

Dropping his sickle Harkadhoj straightened, bringing his weary mutilated body to attention. Barefoot, in old torn khaki shorts and a shirt full of patches, he took a deep painful breath and addressed himself to Peter Ross, ignoring Benson.

Benson’s face was suffused with blood. His whiskers drooped a fraction and his outrage was manifest. How dare the natives usurp centre stage like this! “Chuup gar, you damned impertinent savage!”

“I have been to England.” Harkadhoj stated. His dead pan voice cut through the hushed assembly as he continued, “I have been to parts of England that you have never been to, or will ever be allowed into!”

“Which parts of England are you referring to?” asked Peter Ross. His voice was gentle and there was a hint of mirth that indicated he was prepared to enjoy what was to follow. Peter Ross knew the Gurkhas. He knew them well – for through the war he had served with Gurkha Regiments as had his father before him.

“I have been to Buckingham Palace,” said Harkadhoj, sticking his chest out even further as he stood to attention.

Benson was about to splutter about the absurdity of that statement. A mere common labourer on a Tea Plantation – at Buckingham Palace? Indeed!

The Chairman waved Benson into silence to ask: “What were you doing at Buckingham Palace?”

“I was the Queen’s personal Bodyguard for two years.”

This spoke volumes for the man since the Bodyguards were normally changed annually. To have been retained an extra year must have significance and Ross was immediately curious.

“Which Regiment were you with?” he asked. “I was with the Seventh Ghurkha Rifles.”

“You were in Tobruk, El Alamein and Monte Casino?” Peter Ross was now fully engrossed and concentrating hard on the features of Harkadhoj.

“Hazoor! Yes Sahib,” confirmed Harkadhoj.

“Were you decorated?” Almost everyone Ross knew, who emerged alive from that arena, had received some award.

“I initially got the Military Cross. After a few months I was informed that a Bar had also been added. After the War I received the ‘Nepal Tara’ or ‘Star Of Nepal’ from King Mahindra.” Then reluctantly, almost ashamedly, looking at the ground he whispered:

“I was cited for the Victoria Cross.” The silence became electric.

That night Harkadhoj was the Chief Guest at the party held in honour of the Chairman. Peter Ross had especially asked that Harkadhoj be present and that I, who was the junior most Assistant Manager in the Company, see to it that Harkadhoj present himself in full Military regalia. This had been difficult.

I put his un-ironed trousers under the mattress to be pressed. The coat had to be darned in a few places. The Military Cross, the 1939-45 Star, the Italy Star and the War Medal, along with some attendant Oak Leafs, which signified dual awards, had to be affixed to a piece of cardboard placed under the shirt. This was done to keep the weight of the metal from tugging the fabric askew and that wouldn’t have done at all.

The Star Of Nepal was attached to a blue ribbon left over from a Christmas present wrapping, and put around Harkadhoj’s neck. Shoes? Well he couldn’t fit into my size twelve’s with his five and a half size feet but a khaki pair of sneakers, belonging to my butler, served the purpose.

“Harkadhoj, what was the citation for?” Asked the Chairman.

“Near El Alamein, a German Panzer Division surprised us at dawn. They came over a low hill and we were caught stranded in the middle of the desert. Many of us were killed instantly. Most were able to flee to nearby dunes and escape. One British Officer was caught in the middle. He was alive but a bullet in the spine had paralysed him. I was close by and managed to drag him to safety.”

“My God! So it was you. I was there but frozen with shock. That was my cousin you saved. He has spoken about you ever since. S’truth! But you were riddled with bullets. I saw the dust come off your shirt. You shielded Andrew with your body. He owes you his life!”

“Sahib, it was he who helped put my son through College in England. He has done enough for me.”

This was obviously not enough for Peter Ross. But Harkadhoj refused any monetary help and a saddened Chairman went back to England determined to do something for this gallant soldier.

Six months later the Victoria Cross was awarded to Harkadhoj Limbu for Bravery Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty. It was posthumous. Harkadhoj had died a week before the award was made.

I think he would have preferred it that way.

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He Chose the Army …

Posted on January 6, 2018. Filed under: Personalities |

Barnana Gunnaya couldn’t stop his eyes from welling up with tears as he saw his son Barnana Yadagiri in an Army officer’s uniform at the Indian Military Academy’s passing out parade in Dehradun on Saturday.

Gunnaya, who till recently used to work as a daily wager earning Rs 100 per day in a cement factory in Hyderabad, didn’t even know till a day before the parade that his son was being commissioned as an officer.

“My father is a very simple man. He thought that I was getting into the Army as a soldier. In fact, he told me I was making a huge mistake by leaving a highly-paid software job to join the Army,” said Yadagiri, who overcame extreme financial difficulties to become a software engineer from the International Institute of Information Technology in Hyderabad.

After refusing a job offer from Union Pacific Rail Road, a US-based company, and saying no to a call from IIM Indore — where he had secured admission after scoring 93.4 percent in the CAT exam — Yadagiri decided to “follow my heart and serve the country.”

On Saturday, with his proud parents watching with misty eyes, he received the IMA’s prestigious silver medal for standing first in the order of merit in the Technical Graduate Course, which paves the way for cadets with a technical background to join the Army’s engineering units.

Recounting the struggles that he had to undergo before savouring this moment, the young officer who sustained his studies through government scholarships, told TOI, “I have seen days when my father earned only Rs 60 after a day’s hard work and my mother who is afflicted with polio clean office tables to make both ends meet.”

Despite having seen such financial hardships, he says he was never tempted by money. “I had the option of sticking to the corporate world and making a lot of money but that was not where my heart lay. The kind of mental satisfaction one gets by working for the motherland cannot be replaced by any amount of money.”

On what he is looking forward to most after achieving his dream of becoming an Army officer, the young man who loves public speaking and reading books, said, “The basic character of hard work is already there in my genes. I will ensure that I fulfill my duties in a manner that makes the country proud by working in the defence research and development stream.”

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Babri Masjid – A View of our Historians …

Posted on January 3, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

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A Banker Stood Tall …

Posted on December 28, 2017. Filed under: Personalities |

R.K. Talwar was a highly respected banker who was the Chairman of State Bank of India from 1959 to 1974. He was removed from his office for his principled stand against an unjust and unethical interference by the Government in the functioning of the Bank.

The Government had to amend the Law in Parliament in order to get rid of Talwar, which became well known in banking circles as the “Talwar Amendment.”

What did Talwar do to merit this extreme measure? The problem in one sense was relatively simple and possibly an everyday occurrence in a banker’s life.

One of the borrowers of the Bank, a cement company, became sick with mounting losses and approached the Bank for restructuring assistance.

What made the problem difficult was the strong assessment by the Bank that much of the difficulties of the company were brought about due to gross mismanagement and given this assessment, the Bank insisted that as a condition precedent to implementing the restructuring package, the Chairman of the Company who was also the CEO should step down from the management and a professional management should take over the Company’s management.

In this specific case the promoter strongly resisted any attempt to dislodge him from the management position but the Bank held its ground.

However the person was a friend of Sanjay Gandhi, son of then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi and decided to take his case directly to him. SanjAY called the Finance Minister and asked him to direct the Bank to waive this requirement.

The Finance Minister telephoned Talwar and asked him not to insist on a change in management as a condition precedent to restructuring. Talwar informed the Finance Minister that it would be difficult for the Bank to waive the requirement.

For a period of little more than a year since the Emergency was declared, Sanjay had never met anybody who disagreed or refused to carry out his orders.

He decided to send for Talwar and was shocked to hear that Talwar refused to come and see him on the ground that he held no constitutional authority and he was accountable only to the Finance Minister. Sanjay Gandhi told the Finance Minister to sack Talwar.

The Finance Minister knew that during the seven years Talwar was the Chairman of the Bank, he had achieved a high personal reputation but
this was the period of Emergency. However the Legal Department pointed out the specific provision in the State Bank of India Act which guaranteed the Chairman the special protection against removal without sufficient cause.

The Finance Minister, therefore, felt that a better course of action would be to offer Talwar a different assignment or seek his resignation.
He sent for Talwar again and told him that the Government was planning to set up a Banking Commission to make recommendations with regard to the restructuring of the functioning of the banking system and whether he would be willing to accept the Chairmanship of the Commission.

Without batting an eyelid, Talwar told the Finance Minister that he would indeed be happy to head the Commission and he could carry out this job simultaneous with his existing assignment as Chairman of State Bank of India
When the Finance Minister looked uncomfortable with this suggestion, Talwar very calmly looked the Finance Minister in his eyes and told him “Mr. Minister you seem to be very particular that I should not continue as the Chairman of the State Bank of India, is that correct?”

The Finance Minister replied. “Yes Mr. Talwar, you know what the problem is. We all have the highest regard for your abilities but unfortunately you do not seem to be very flexible on this one issue which is of great importance to the highest authority in the country. If you do not want to accept any other position, I may have no option but to seek your resignation or in the alternative, to dismiss you from service. This would be extremely painful to me but I would be left with no other option.”

Talwar replied, “Mr. Minister I have no intention of resigning from my position. It is entirely up to you to decide whether you want to dismiss me. In any case, I have just about a little more than a year left in my second term and I see no reason why you should not allow me to complete it.”

The Finance Minister reported the matter to Sanjay Gandhi who asked the CBI to investigate Talwar to find out grounds on which he could be dismissed. Talwar’s personal reputation for honesty and integrity was well known. But had two chinks in his armour.

One was his almost monthly visits to Pondicherry. His attachment to the Mother and the Aurobindo Ashram was well known and he had made it clear to the Government that he needed these visits for what he called “recharging his batteries,” and that if as a condition of his employment he were to stop these visits, he would as well step down from the Bank.

In any case, this could not be construed as a sufficient cause for his dismissal in terms of the Act. The second one was a little more serious.

Talwar had sent appeals on behalf of the Ashram to a large number of industrialists, many of whom were clients of the Bank, seeking donations for the Auroville project. Those who were close to him, feared that the Central Investigative Agency could focus on this issue and charge him with abuse of authority..

While Talwar himself was completely unperturbed by the reported investigation, it became known that the Agency was meeting several industrialists who had given donation to the project with a view to taking from them a statement that they were coerced into giving this donation at the instance of Talwar.

However two things became very clear to the Agency. One was that not a single industrialist was willing to say that Talwar either spoke to them or in any way tried to persuade them to make the donation.

The second was what all Talwar did was to forward to these clients an appeal signed by Prime Minister, Ms. Gandhi and the Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant commending the Auroville project for support.
The Agency found that under these circumstances, there was no way in which they could charge Talwar with abuse of his position.

Sanjay Gandhi lost his patience. He directed the Finance Minister to amend the State Bank of India Act to provide for a summary dismissal of the Chairman.

The Legislation amending the State Bank of India Act was passed in record time and received the assent of the President without delay. Armed with the new provision in the Act, the Finance Minister summoned Talwar once again and told him that if he did not resign from service, there was no alternative but to remove him in terms of the new provision.

Talwar remained defiant. He told the Finance Minister that he had no intention of resigning and the Finance Minister could take whatever action he deemed appropriate.
On the evening of the 4th of August 1976 Talwar received a fax message from the Finance Minister sanctioning him 13 months leave and asking him to hand over charge to the Managing Director.

This was the respect he commanded in the industry.

Talwar left the Bank promptly ‪at 5.30 p.m. which was his usual time of departure. There was hardly anybody to see him off.

The residence of the Chairman of the State Bank was just across the road and as soon as I received intimation that he had reached his home, I walked across to meet him. I found him smiling and cheerful. Extending his hand to greet me on my birthday (which by a curious coincidence happened to be 4th August) he said, “Vaghul, look at the Divine Will. What a pleasure it is to be gifted with His Blessings.”

He looked me at my eyes and said “As far as I am concerned, I am only an instrument of the Divine and His Will is the only thing that is important to me. We cannot sit in judgment over the Divine will. You have to learn to enjoy all the time the Divine play.
The work in the Bank is over. What the Divine has in store for me I do not know. Whatever it is, I will serve the Divine with devotion and always enjoy being His instrument.”

Narayanan Vaghul – The Author is the Former Chairman of ICICI Bank Limited. He is widely recognized in India for his role in pioneering the concept of the Universal Banking Model that laid the foundation for a new era in Indian Banking.

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Man on the Moon …

Posted on December 14, 2017. Filed under: Personalities |

On July 20th, 1969, as commander of the Apollo 11 lunar module, Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the moon.

His first words after stepping on the moon, “that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” were heard by millions of people around the world.

But just before he re-entered the lander, he made the enigmatic remark: “good luck, Mr. Gorsky.”

Many people at NASA thought it was a casual remark concerning some rival Soviet cosmonaut. However, upon checking, there was no Gorsky in either the Russian or American space programs.

Over the years many people questioned Armstrong as to what the “good luck, Mr. Gorsky” statement meant, but he just brushed them off by smiling.

On July 5th, 1995, in Tampa Bay, Florida, while answering questions following a speech, a reporter brought up the 26-year-old question. That time, he finally responded. Mr. Gorsky had died, so Neil Armstrong felt he could answer the question.

In 1938, when he was a kid in a small Midwestern town, he was playing baseball with a friend in the backyard. His friend hit the ball, which landed in his neighbor’s yard by the bedroom windows.

His neighbors were Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky. As he leaned down to pick up the ball, the young Armstrong heard Mrs. Gorsky shouting at Mr. Gorsky.

“Sex? You want sex?! You’ll get sex when the kid next door walks on the moon!”

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Nazi Concentration Camps …

Posted on December 10, 2017. Filed under: Guide Posts, Personalities |

When US troops came across ghastly evidence of massive fratricide of Jews at concentration camps like Dachau and Auschwitz, Eisenhower ordered immediate and comprehensive documentation of the devastation saying ”

I want full proof of this brutality, because tomorrow some bastard is going to say it never happened!”

General Eisenhower wrote in his memoir Crusade in Europe the following passage regarding his reaction to the concentration camps and the action he felt he needed to take:

The same day I saw my first horror camp. It was near the town of Gotha. I have never felt able to describe my emotional reactions when I first came face to face with indisputable evidence of Nazi brutality and ruthless disregard of every shred of decency.

Up to that time I had known about it only generally or through secondary sources. I am certain, however that I have never at any other time experienced an equal sense of shock.

I visited every nook and cranny of the camp because I felt it my duty to be in a position from then on to testify at first hand about these things in case there ever grew up at home the belief or assumption that `the stories of Nazi brutality were just propaganda.’ Some members of the visiting party were unable to go through the ordeal.

I not only did so but as soon as I returned to Patton’s headquarters that evening I sent communications to both Washington and London, urging the two governments to send instantly to Germany a random group of newspaper editors and representative groups from the national legislatures.

I felt that the evidence should be immediately placed before the American and British publics in a fashion that would leave no room for cynical doubt.

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1962 War – Rezang La …

Posted on November 26, 2017. Filed under: From a Services Career, Personalities |

Remember Rezang La – By Mohan Guruswamy

One of the bitter ironies of life is that greatest acts of heroism and valor mostly happen when the odds are hopeless and death and defeat inevitable. Throughout history nations have always glorified such episodes in their ballads and poems, by honoring the heroes and commemorating the event.

It is the common perception of these few and far in between episodes in a people’s history that forge a sense of nationhood. Why else would we celebrate the deaths of a Prithviraj Chauhan or a Tipu Sultan? Or a Porus or a Shivaji who battled great armies with little more than a handful of brave comrades and immense courage? Of course we rejoice in the triumphs of an Ashoka or Chandragupta or even an Akbar but that is about greatness and not heroism.

Even if it is true that the end of history is at hand, we can be sure that the annals of heroism will never cease being written. However endless these may be, the heroic stand of C Company of the 13 Kumaon at Rezang La in 18 November 1962 will always be among the more glorious chapters.

The monument that stands at Chushul asks: “How can a man die better/ Than facing fearful odds/ For the ashes of his fathers/ And the temples of his gods.” C Company was fighting for neither ashes nor temples, for they were none at Chushul. The loss of Chushul would not even have had much bearing on the ultimate defence of Ladakh. But in those dark days of 1962 Chushul became a matter of national honor.

Chushul is only 15 miles from the border as the crow flies and even then had an all weather landing strip. It was the pivotal point of our frontier posts in this sector as it was astride the second route into Tibet from Leh about 120 miles further west. The road built after 1962 rises to nearly 17000 feet crossing the Ladakh range at the desolate and wind blown Chang La pass, steeply descends into Tangtse and then goes on to Chushul.

Between the Chang La and Tangtse the road takes the traveler though the most beautiful scenery with matching beautiful wildlife. Golden marmots dart in and out of their holes and in the distance you can sometimes spot a snow leopard warily keeping a watch on mankind.

Chushul itself is at 14230 feet and is a small village in a narrow sandy valley about 25 miles long and 4 miles wide, flanked by mountains that rise to over 19000 feet. At the northern end touches the Pangong Tso, a deep saltwater lake nearly a hundred miles long and that makes for one of natures most glorious sights. Also near Chushul is a gap in the mountains called the Spanggur Gap that leads to another beautiful lake, the Spanggur Tso that like the Pangong extends well into Chinese territory.

The Chinese had built a road from Rudok in Tibet right up to the Spanggur Gap capable of carrying tanks. In the first phase of their assault on Ladakh in October 1962, the Chinese had overrun many of our major border posts on the line between Daulat Beg Oldi near the Karakorum Pass to Demchok astride the Indus on the border with Tibet. Chushul was the solitary Indian position east of the Ladakh range. Geography favored the Chinese and they were able to make a major concentration of men and material for an attack on Chushul.

Till September 1962, the defence of all of Ladakh was vested with 114 Brigade commanded by Brig. TN Raina (later General and COAS). It consisted of just two infantry battalions, the 1/8 Gorkha Rifles and 5 Jat. Initially, only the Gorkhas were deployed in the Chushul sector and when the gravity of the Chinese threat began to be realized 13 Kumaon, which was at Baramula in the Kashmir Valley, was sent in to reinforce 114 Brigade.

In the first week of October the 3 Himalayan (later Mountain) Division was formed for the overall defence of Ladakh and the Chushul sector was entirely left to 114 Brigade. On 26 October, 114 Brigade set up its headquarters at Chushul and braced for the inevitable Chinese attack.

The newly arrived 13 Kumaon began deploying on October 24 in the lull that followed the first phase of the Chinese attack. The forward defenses of Chushul were on a series of hill features given evocative names like Gurung Hill, Gun Hill and Mugger Hill, but C Company of 13 Kumaon got Rezang La which was about 19 miles south of Chushul.

Rezang La as the name suggests is a pass and is on the southeastern approach to Chushul valley. The feature was 3000 yards long and 2000 yards wide at and average height of 16000 feet. Digging defensive positions and building shelters was hard going for the men were still not acclimatized and cold wintry winds life even more hard. At this altitude it took hours to bring a kettle to boil for tea and whatever fruit and vegetables that came were frozen hard. Let alone potatoes even oranges acquired weapon grade hardness.

More than the thin air and cold the location of Rezang La had a more serious drawback. It was “crested” to Indian artillery because of an intervening feature, which meant that had make do without the protective comfort of the big guns. Both sides prepared feverishly, mostly within sight of each other, for the next Chinese attack. That attack came on that cold Sunday that was 18 November.

Most Kumaon battalions are mixed formations made up of hill men from the Kumaon Hills, Ahirs from Haryana and Brahmins from the northern plains. 13 Kumaon was the Kumaon Regiment’s only all Ahir battalion. The Ahirs who are concentrated in the Gurgaon/Mewat region of Haryana are hardy cattlemen and farmers. When the order to move to Chushul came, its CO, Lt.Col. HS Dhingra was in hospital but he cajoled the doctors into letting him go with his men.

Maj. Shaitan Singh who was a Rajput from Jodhpur commanded C Company of 13 Kumaon. C Company’s three platoons were numbered 7,8 and 9 and had .303 rifles with about 600 rounds per head, and between them six LMG’s, and a handful of 2 inch mortars. The Chinese infantry had 7.62 mm self loading rifles; MMG’s and LMG’s; 120 mm, 81 mm and 60 mm mortars; 132 mm rockets; and 75 mm and 57 mm recoilless guns to bust bunkers. They were much more numerous and began swarming up the gullies to assault Rezang La at 4 am even as a light snow was falling.

The Ahirs waited till the Chinese came into range and opened up with everything they had. The gullies were soon full of dead and wounded Chinese. Having failed in a frontal attack the Chinese let loose a murderous shelling. Under the cover of this intense shelling the Chinese infantry came again in swarms. C Company, now severely depleted, let them have it once again.

Position after position fell fighting till the last man. C Company had 3 JCO’s and 124 other ranks with Maj. Shaitan Singh. When the smoke and din of battle cleared, only 14 survived, nine of them severely wounded. 13 Kumaon regrouped and 114 Brigade held on to Chushul. But the battalion war diary records that they were now “less our C Company.”

The Chinese announced a unilateral cease-fire on 21 November but little more than what the survivors had brought back was known about C Company. In January 1963 a shepherd wandered on to Rezang La. It was as if the last moment of battle had turned into a tableau. The freezing cold had frozen the dead in their battle positions and the snow had laid a shroud over the battlefield.

Arrangements were then made to recover our dead under International Red Cross supervision. Brig Raina led the Indian party, which recorded the scene for posterity with cine and still cameras. This tableau told their countrymen what actually happened that Sunday morning. Every man had died a hero.

Maj. Shaitan Singh was conferred the Param Vir Chakra. Eight more received the Vir Chakra while four others the Sena Medal. 13 Kumaon received the battle honor “Rezang La” that it wears so proudly.

Few events in the annals of heroism can match this. C Company gave its all to defend Chushul, a small Ladakhi village, which for one brief moment in our history came to symbolize our national honor.

At Thermopylae on 18 September 480 BC, 1200 Greeks led by King Leonides of Sparta died fighting the Persian King Xerxes’ mighty bodyguard called the Anusya or Companions. But Leonides was fighting for a great prize.

In July 481 BC the Oracle of Delphi told him that in the next war with Persia either the King will die or Sparta would be destroyed. Leonides thus died to save Sparta. But C Company willingly sacrificed itself to save a little village and that makes its sacrifice all the more glorious. That is why we must never forget Rezang La.



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Sacrifice of Guru Teg Bahadur …

Posted on November 25, 2017. Filed under: Personalities |


Emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707) was a barbaric ruler of the Mughal Dynasty who came to power in 1658 and ruled for 49 years until his death in 1707. When he came to power in 1658, he killed or had killed his three brothers and imprisoned his father and forcibly converted Lakhs (hundreds of thousands) of Hindus to Islam.

He is commonly considered the last of the Mughal emperors. His last 25 years were spent in the Deccan fighting a war of attrition against the Marathas which practically bankrupted the Mughal Empire, which never rose again to its onetime splendour.

The Kashmiri Pandits were Hindus renowned for their high intellect and education. They had a good relationship with the Sikhs and their Gurus. Guru Nanak Dev met Pandit Brahm Das who was an ancestor of Pandit Kripa Ram in Mattan. Kripa Ram had known the Ninth Guru and also taught Sanskrit Classics to the young Gobind Rai.

During the reign of Jehangir, Guru Hargobind came to Srinagar and met Kashmiri Saintess Mata Bagh Bari, who lived at Rainawari. It is interesting to note that Mata Bagya Bari’s spiritual interaction with the sixth Sikh Guru is incredibly well-preserved in the Sikh religious tradition. In Pandit tradition Mata Bagya Bari is a person renowned for her high spiritual merits.

In early 1675, the Kashmiri Pandits approached Guru Tegh Bahadar to seek his assistance in their acute hour of need. Pandit Kripa Ram with his large delegation met Guru Tegh Bahadar at Chak Nanki, Kahlur (now known as Anandpur Sahib). He explained their dilemma to the Guru in the open Sangat at the place where today stands Gurdwara Manji Sahib, in Anandpur Sahib.

“The Emperor had given us some time to decide to convert to Islam or to be executed. The time for deciding has expired. Now, we have to convert to Islam or die. What shall we do? Guru ji, we have no one else to turn to. We don’t have an army to protect us – We need your help. Please assist us”, said Kripa Ram.

Guru ji is said to have gone into deep thought after Pandit Kripa Ram’s request. At this point, it is said that Guru ji son, Gobind Rai walks into the Sangat to see Guru ji deep in thought.

“Guru ji, I see the sad faces of the Sangat and you are silent and in deep thought. What is the problem?” asked Gobind Rai to his father. Gobind is about 9 years old. Guru ji slowly turn to his son and explain the situation as concisely as possible.

“Baata (Son), this is sangat from Kashmir. They are Hindus who have been friends of Sikhs since the time of Guru Nanak. They have a very serious problem on their hands” said Guru ji. Gobind Rai replied, “Pita ji, you are the Guru of the entire world (“Jagat Guru”). You will know of a solution to all problems”

“Bata, Emperor Aurangzeb has given them an ultimatum – If they do not become Muslims, he will kill them all”, explained Guru ji. Guru ji continued, “Some well-known “Mahapurakh” will have to make a sacrifice to stop this butchery. We have to find a supreme soul who will die so as to awaken the sleeping consciousness of the people of Hind”.

“Pita ji, there is an easy answer to this problem. You are the most spiritually aware person in whole of Hind. You can make that sacrifice”, answered Gobind Rai. Guru ji was pleased to hear these words as it confirmed that his son had reached a suitable age to become the next Guru, and that Guru ji’s work on Earth had been completed.

Guru ji addressed the Pandits, “Go and tell Aurangzeb that if he can convert Guru Tegh Bahadar to Islam, they will all convert. Otherwise he should leave them alone”

The Pandits were delighted that a solution was found and duly informed Emperor Aurangzeb of the decision. Aurangzeb was delighted that by converting one person, he would without any further delay have the conversion of many 1000’s to Islam. Accordingly he summoned his officers to arrest Guru Tegh Bahadar.


25 May, 1675 Pandit Kirpa Ram, the leader of the Kashmiri Pandits arrives in Anandpur Sahib (then called Chak Nanki, Kahlur) to ask Guru Tegh Bahadur for help in preserving the Hindu faith in Kashmiri.
11 July, 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur sets off for Delhi

27 July, 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur taken into custody by Nur Muhammad Khan Miraza of Ropar Police post, on Savan 12,1732 at Malikpur Ranghran, Pargana Ghanaula, and sent to Sirhind.

9 November, 1675 the qazi ordered that Bhai Dayal Das be seated in a cauldron of boiling water.

11 November 1675 Bhai Mati Das sawn into two pieces and Bhai Sati Das was wrapped up in cotton wool and set on fire. They both attained martyrdom on this day.

24 November, 1675 Guru Tegh Bahadur attains martyrdom

More Detail Guru goes to Delhi – Gurdwara Rakab Sahib, Delhi

In the summer of 1675, the Guru, along with some of his companions were finally brought to Delhi and asked to convert to Islam or else face the penalty of death. Guru ji was also asked to perform a miracle. Guru Tegh Bahadur averred that he would rather sacrifice his life than give up his faith and his freedom or belief or perform a miracle.

Thus, under Aurangzeb’s orders, Guru ji and his companions were tortured. The Guru was chained and imprisoned in a cage and was tortured in the cruellest and the most inhuman ways for five long days. In order to terrorise him further into submission, one of his distinguished devotees (Bhai Mati Das) was sawn alive, another (Bhai Dyal Das) was boiled in the cauldron and the third (Bhai Sati Das) was roasted alive before the Guru.
Gurdwara Sis Ganj, Chandni Chowk, Delhi.

Finally, the Guru himself was beheaded, under imperial warrant, in broad daylight, in the middle of a public square, the most prominent public place in India, called Chandni Chowk, of Delhi, on the charge that he was a stumbling block preventing the spread of Islam in the Indian subcontinent.

The exact location of the beheading is marked by Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Delhi.

His martyrdom was yet another challenge to the Sikh conscience. It was then realized that there could be no understanding between an insensate power imbrued with blood and a proud people wedded to a life of peace with honour. The sacrifice roused the Hindus from their passive silence and gave them the fortitude to understand the power that comes from self-respect and sacrifice. Guru Tegh Bahadur thus earned the affectionate title of “Hind-di-Chadar” or the Shield of India.
Events Following The Martyrdom

After the execution of Guru Teg Bahadur, Nature unleashed her full fury. There ensued a severe dust storm. There was pandemonium all around and because of the dust storm nothing could be seen or heard.

A disciple of Guruji, Bhai Jaita dared and picked up the Sis (severed head) and with great devotion wrapped it up in his clothes. Taking his 2 associates along, the group of three traversed over a period of 5 days to reach Kiratpur Sahib.

With a heavy heart Bhai Jaita now presented Guruji’s head to his son Gobind Rai. Guruji’s head was consigned to the flames with full respect. Today, at the spot in Anandpur sahib where Guruji’s head was consigned to the flames, stands a beautiful Gurudwara, also by the name of Sis Ganj.

In the meanwhile in Delhi, another disciple of Guruji, Lakhi Shah along with his son reached the site with cotton and other stuff loaded on bullock carts and quickly piercing the crowd picked up Guruji’s beheaded body, loaded and hid it in the cotton bales in the bullock cart and rode away to their house in Raisina.

The Mughal forces were flabbergasted at the disappearance of the Guruji’s head and body. Fearing that the Mughal soldiers would find them out, Lucky Shah took Guruji’s body to his hut and after a hurried prayer set fire to the hut itself to avoid detection. The Mughal soldiers thought fire had engulfed Lakhi Shah’s house and so didn’t press further.

Gurudwaras Sis Ganj (Delhi Chandni Chauk) & Rakab Ganj (New Delhi, near the Parliament Building)

Today, Gurudwara Sis Ganj stands at the spot in CHANDNI CHAUK where Guru Teg Bahadur Sahib was executed; and Gurudwara Rakab Ganj, stands at the site near The PARLIAMENT BUILDING in New Delhi, where Lakhi Shah performed Guruji’s last rites by burning down his house.

Such supreme sacrifice made to defend the followers of another faith is unparalled in world history.

Noel King of the University of California – “Guru Teg Bahadur’s martydom was the first ever martydom for human rights in the world”.

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Sher Shah Suri – Just Five Years …

Posted on November 24, 2017. Filed under: Personalities |

Dr. Praveen Kumar Prabhakar writes:.. “If you say 5 years is too less to achieve anything substantial, see what Sher Shah Suri achieved in 5 years (1540-1545)”

1. Started the measurement and survey of all land holdings in the kingdom. Intoduced the measure “Gaj” which corresponds to 39 inches.

2. Started the “Patta” system for sale purchase of land.

3. Introduced the currency called “Rupya” (Rupee) which was a silver coin weighing 178 “Ratti”. One Rupya was equal to 64 “Daam” which was later called “Aana”.

4. Created 47 “Jilla” (districts) which were called “Sarkaar”. Each Sarkaar had a Military officer and a Civilian officer like today’s SP and DM.

5. Agricultural land was classified into the categories of Good, Average and Poor according to yield.The ‘Lagaan’ was determined accordingly.

6. Farmers were granted the facility of Agricultural loan called “Takavi”.

7. Business tax was simplified into Entry tax when goods entered the Kingdom (Customs tax) and when they were sold (Sales tax).

8. Formed the “Cabinet system” of ruling with seperate ministers for Finance, Defence, Foreign affairs and Communications.

9. Instead of “Jamindari” system brought in “Rayatvari” system. While Jamindari was dynastic, in Rayatdari an officer was appointed like IAS.

10. Revenue courts were established in every ‘Sarkar’ where “Munsif” (DM of today) used to officiate as a Judge.

11. Every Sarkar also had a Criminal court where “Shikdar” (SP of today) used to officiate as a Judge.

12. Started new systems in Military. Horses were branded to identify them permanently. Records of soliders were maintained and they were assigned to a unit (Regiment system).

13. Constructed 1700 “Sarai” (Resting places) along the highways.

14. Started a Postal service.

15. Constructed GT road from Peshawar to Sonargaon, about 3000 km. long.

16. Constructed highways from Agra to Jodhpur, Agra to Burhanpur, Lahore to Multan.

17. Got Fruit yielding and Shadow giving trees along all highways.

18. Put the onus of the safety of travellers on the villages en route. If a traveller was robbed either the village produced the robber or it compensated the traveller. The onus of protection of traveller’s life was on the village head. Either the culprit had to be handed over or the village head was punished. These measures made travelling quite safe for businessmen and others.

19. Constructed the Old fort of Delhi, Rohtasgarh fort and many other buildings.

20. Erected lamp post at every “Kos” on the highways to guide the travellers at night.

21. And he managed to achieve all this while fighting wars for 31 months out of 60 months reign!!!

—- So much can be done in 5 years

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