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1857 War and the British holocaust where millions disappeared…’

The battle of Cawnpore, India

The battle of Cawnpore – the entire British garrison died at Cawnpore (now Kanpur), either in the battle or later massacred with women and children. Their deaths became a war cry for the British.

A controversial new history of the Indian Mutiny, which broke out 150 years ago and is acknowledged to have been the greatest challenge to any European power in the 19th century, claims that the British pursued a murderous decade-long campaign to wipe out millions of people who dared rise up against them.

In War of Civilisations: India AD 1857, Amaresh Misra, a writer and historian based in Mumbai, argues that there was an “untold holocaust” which caused the deaths of almost 10 million people over 10 years beginning in 1857. Britain was then the world’s superpower but, says Misra, came perilously close to losing its most prized possession: India.

Conventional histories have counted only 100,000 Indian soldiers who were slaughtered in savage reprisals, but none have tallied the number of rebels and civilians killed by British forces desperate to impose order, claims Misra.

The author says he was surprised to find that the “balance book of history” could not say how many Indians were killed in the aftermath of 1857. This is remarkable, he says, given that in an age of empires, nothing less than the fate of the world hung in the balance.

“It was a holocaust, one where millions disappeared. It was a necessary holocaust in the British view because they thought the only way to win was to destroy entire populations in towns and villages. It was simple and brutal. Indians who stood in their way were killed. But its scale has been kept a secret,” Misra told the Guardian.

His calculations rest on three principal sources. Two are records pertaining to the number of religious resistance fighters killed – either Islamic mujahideen or Hindu warrior ascetics committed to driving out the British.

The third source involves British labour force records, which show a drop in manpower of between a fifth and a third across vast swaths of India, which as one British official records was “on account of the undisputed display of British power, necessary during those terrible and wretched days – millions of wretches seemed to have died.”

There is a macabre undercurrent in much of the correspondence. In one incident Misra recounts how 2m letters lay unopened in government warehouses, which, according to civil servants, showed “the kind of vengeance our boys must have wreaked on the abject Hindoos and Mohammadens, who killed our women and children.”

Misra’s casualty claims have been challenged in India and Britain. “It is very difficult to assess the extent of the reprisals simply because we cannot say for sure if some of these populations did not just leave a conflict zone rather than being killed,” said Shabi Ahmad, head of the 1857 project at the Indian Council of Historical Research. “It could have been migration rather than murder that depopulated areas.”

Many view exaggeration rather than deceit in Misra’s calculations. A British historian, Saul David, author of The Indian Mutiny, said it was valid to count the death toll but reckoned that it ran into “hundreds of thousands”.

“It looks like an overestimate. There were definitely famines that cost millions of lives, which were exacerbated by British ruthlessness. You don’t need these figures or talk of holocausts to hammer imperialism. It has a pretty bad track record.”

Others say Misra has done well to unearth anything in that period, when the British assiduously snuffed out Indian versions of history. “There appears a prolonged silence between 1860 and the end of the century where no native voices are heard. It is only now that these stories are being found and there is another side to the story,” said Amar Farooqui, history professor at Delhi University. “In many ways books like Misra’s and those of [William] Dalrymple show there is lots of material around. But you have to look for it.”

What is not in doubt is that in 1857 Britain ruled much of the subcontinent in the name of the Bahadur Shah Zafar, the powerless poet-king improbably descended from Genghis Khan.

Neither is there much dispute over how events began: on May 10 Indian soldiers, both Muslim and Hindu, who were stationed in the central Indian town of Meerut revolted and killed their British officers before marching south to Delhi. The rebels proclaimed Zafar, then 82, emperor of Hindustan and hoisted a saffron flag above the Red Fort.

What follows in Misra’s view was nothing short of the first war of Indian independence, a story of a people rising to throw off the imperial yoke. Critics say the intentions and motives were more muddled: a few sepoys misled into thinking the officers were threatening their religious traditions. In the end British rule prevailed for another 90 years.

Misra’s analysis breaks new ground by claiming the fighting stretched across India rather than accepting it was localised around northern India. Misra says there were outbreaks of anti-British violence in southern Tamil Nadu, near the Himalayas, and bordering Burma. “It was a pan-Indian thing. No doubt.”

Misra also claims that the uprisings did not die out until years after the original mutiny had fizzled away, countering the widely held view that the recapture of Delhi was the last important battle.

For many the fact that Indian historians debate 1857 from all angles is in itself a sign of a historical maturity. “You have to see this in the context of a new, more confident India,” said Jon E Wilson, lecturer in south Asian history at King’s College London. “India has a new relationship with 1857. In the 40s and 50s the rebellions were seen as an embarrassment. All that fighting, when Nehru and Gandhi preached nonviolence. But today 1857 is becoming part of the Indian national story. That is a big change.”

What they said

Charles Dickens: “I wish I were commander-in-chief in India … I should proclaim to them that I considered my holding that appointment by the leave of God, to mean that I should do my utmost to exterminate the race.”

Karl Marx: “The question is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton.”

L’Estaffette, French newspaper: “Intervene in favour of the Indians, launch all our squadrons on the seas, join our efforts with those of Russia against British India …such is the only policy truly worthy of the glorious traditions of France.”

The Guardian: “We sincerely hope that the terrible lesson thus taught will never be forgotten … We may rely on native bayonets, but they must be officered by Europeans.”

Courtesy : The Guardian; Author : Sri Randeep Ramesh

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Mao and the biggest mass murder in the history of the world

 

By Ilya Somin

August 3, 2016

Victims of the Great Leap Forward.

Chinese Peasants suffering from the effects of the Great
Leap Forward

Who was the biggest mass murderer in the history of the world? Most people probably assume that the answer is Adolf Hitler, architect of the Holocaust. Others might guess Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, who may indeed have managed to kill even more innocent people than Hitler did, many of them as part of a terror famine that likely took more lives than the Holocaust. But both Hitler and Stalin were outdone by Mao Zedong. From 1958 to 1962, his Great Leap Forward policy led to the deaths of up to 45 million people – easily making it the biggest episode of mass murder ever recorded.

Historian Frank Dikötter, author of the important book Mao’s Great Famine recently published an article in History Today, summarizing what happened:

Mao thought that he could catapult his country past its competitors by herding villagers across the country into giant people’s communes. In pursuit of a utopian paradise, everything was collectivised. People had their work, homes, land, belongings and livelihoods taken from them. In collective canteens, food, distributed by the spoonful according to merit, became a weapon used to force people to follow the party’s every dictate. As incentives to work were removed, coercion and violence were used instead to compel famished farmers to perform labour on poorly planned irrigation projects while fields were neglected.

A catastrophe of gargantuan proportions ensued. Extrapolating from published population statistics, historians have speculated that tens of millions of people died of starvation. But the true dimensions of what happened are only now coming to light thanks to the meticulous reports the party itself compiled during the famine….

What comes out of this massive and detailed dossier is a tale of horror in which Mao emerges as one of the greatest mass murderers in history, responsible for the deaths of at least 45 million people between 1958 and 1962. It is not merely the extent of the catastrophe that dwarfs earlier estimates, but also the manner in which many people died: between two and three million victims were tortured to death or summarily killed, often for the slightest infraction. When a boy stole a handful of grain in a Hunan village, local boss Xiong Dechang forced his father to bury him alive. The father died of grief a few days later. The case of Wang Ziyou was reported to the central leadership: one of his ears was chopped off, his legs were tied with iron wire, a ten kilogram stone was dropped on his back and then he was branded with a sizzling tool – punishment for digging up a potato.

The basic facts of the Great Leap Forward have long been known to scholars. Dikötter’s work is noteworthy for demonstrating that the number of victims may have been even greater than previously thought, and that the mass murder was more clearly intentional on Mao’s part, and included large numbers of victims who were executed or tortured, as opposed to “merely” starved to death. Even the previously standard estimates of 30 million or more, would still make this the greatest mass murder in history.

While the horrors of the Great Leap Forward are well known to experts on communism and Chinese history, they are rarely remembered by ordinary people outside China, and have had only a modest cultural impact. When Westerners think of the great evils of world history, they rarely think of this one. In contrast to the numerous books, movies, museums, and and remembrance days dedicated to the Holocaust, we make little effort to recall the Great Leap Forward, or to make sure that society has learned its lessons. When we vow “never again,” we don’t often recall that it should apply to this type of atrocity, as well as those motivated by racism or anti-semitism.

The fact that Mao’s atrocities resulted in many more deaths than those of Hitler does not necessarily mean he was the more evil of the two. The greater death toll is partly the result of the fact that Mao ruled over a much larger population for a much longer time. I lost several relatives in the Holocaust myself, and have no wish to diminish its significance. But the vast scale of Chinese communist atrocities puts them in the same general ballpark. At the very least, they deserve far more recognition than they currently receive.

What accounts for this neglect? One possible answer is that most of the victims were Chinese peasants – people who are culturally and socially distant from the Western intellectuals and media figures who have the greatest influence over our historical consciousness and popular culture. As a general rule, it is easier to empathize with victims who seem similar to ourselves.

But an even bigger factor in our relative neglect of the Great Leap Forward is that it is part of the general tendency to downplay crimes committed by communist regimes, as opposed to right-wing authoritarians. Unlike in the days of Mao, today very few western intellectuals actually sympathize with communism. But many are reluctant to fully accept what a great evil it was, fearful – perhaps – that other left-wing causes might be tainted by association.

In China, the regime has in recent years admitted that Mao made “mistakes” and allowed some degree of open discussion about this history. But the government is unwilling to admit that the mass murder was intentional and continues to occasionally suppress and persecute dissidents who point out the truth.

This reluctance is an obvious result of the fact that the Communist Party still rules China. Although they have repudiated many of Mao’s specific policies, the regime still derives much of its legitimacy from his legacy. I experienced China’s official ambivalence on this subject first-hand, when I gave a talk about the issue while teaching a course as a visiting professor at a Chinese university in 2014.

II. Why it Matters.

For both Chinese and westerners, failure to acknowledge the true nature of the Great Leap Forward carries serious costs. Some survivors of the Great Leap Forward are still alive today. They deserve far greater recognition of the horrible injustice they suffered. They also deserve compensation for their losses, and the infliction of appropriate punishment on the remaining perpetrators.

 

In addition, our continuing historical blind spot about the crimes of Mao and other communist rulers, leads us to underestimate the horrors of such policies, and makes it more likely that they might be revived in the future. The horrendous history of China, the USSR, and their imitators, should have permanently discredited socialism as completely as fascism was discredited by the Nazis. But it has not – so far – fully done so.

Just recently, the socialist government of Venezuela imposed forced labor on much of its population. Yet most of the media coverage of this injustice fails to note the connection to socialism, or that the policy has parallels in the history of the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and other similar regimes. One analysis even claims that the real problem is not so much “socialism qua socialism,” but rather Venezuela’s “particularbrand of socialism, which fuses bad economic ideas with a distinctive brand of strongman bullying,” and is prone to authoritarianism and “mismanagement.” The author simply ignores the fact that “strongman bullying” and “mismanagement” are typical of socialist states around the world. The Scandinavian nations – sometimes cited as examples of successful socialism- are not actually socialist at all, because they do not feature government ownership of the means of production, and in many ways have freer markets than most other western nations.

Venezuela’s tragic situation would not surprise anyone familiar with the history of the Great Leap Forward. We would do well to finally give history’s largest episode of mass murder the attention it deserves.

 

 

Dr Hedgewar sowed the seeds of eternity for RSS

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has dominated the social scene in all spheres of life today. Its opponents are worried over its ever increasing strength and they miss no opportunity to malign its name and fame. But in spite of all their attempts to defame the organisation, this ‘Rashtra Shakti’ is on the rise complicating their worries. On the other hand, the nationalist forces are happy and assured at the bright future of the country with its growing strength. They are willing to join and cooperate the RSS or any of its social welfare activity, and contribute their might in the process of nation building.

It has been observed that the number of those willing to join the RSS on internet was 1000 per month in 2012. It increased to 2500 per month in 2013 and 9000 in 2014! This is sufficient to indicate the growth of RSS. The secret of this growth lies in the pure national outlook of RSS and a chain of selfless, devoted, dedicated and committed workers.

While this huge Banyan tree, called RSS, is touching new heights, its roots are penetrating deeper and deeper searching new sources of the elixir of life. The very idea about the seed of such a huge Banyan tree enthuse our minds. It was Dr Hedgewar whose 125th birth anniversary coincides this year’s ‘Varsh Pratipada’. How was that seed?

Born on the auspicious occasion of Varsh Pratipada (April 1, 1889) Keshav Baliram Hedgewar was a born patriot. He came from an orthodox Brahmin family, which had no connection with the freedom struggle nor was there any major movement for freedom in the Central Provinces then. But the spark of freedom burnt in the heart of young Keshav and his heart throbbed for freedom. This urge of freedom became visible through many incidents of his childhood days. Noteworthy amongst them were throwing away the sweet box distributed to the students on diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria; or refusing to go for enjoying lighting and decoration on the government buildings to commemorate the arrival of George Vth in India, and many more such examples.

Young Keshav was the mastermind of ripping through the infamous Risley Circular that prohibited the singing of Vande Mataram in 1907 against the background of “Bang-Bhang” movement. When the School Inspector entered a classroom he was greeted with a shout of “Vande Mataram”. Obviously, Keshav was the inspiration of this protest. He opted for Calcutta to pursue his studies in Medicine as Calcutta happened to be the core centre of revolutionary activities then. He joined the Anusheelan Samiti, the topmost revolutionary outfit, and soon admitted to its inner most circles. After completing his medical studies and obtaining licence to practice, he came back to Nagpur but did not get involved in practice nor did he think for entering into a married life. His life aim was to free the motherland and he plunged into the freedom struggle then.

Dr. Hedgewar was entrusted with the responsibility of a volunteer corps of 1920 Congress Session in Nagpur. He raised the volunteer force of 1200 for it. Besides, he proposed two resolutions to the Draft Committee. One of them was related to full freedom of India. And the other was freeing other countries of the world from the clutches of imperialism. However, these resolutions could not see the light of the day. But when Congress passed a resolution of full freedom in 1930, Dr Hedgewar wrote to all the RSS Shakhas to congratulate the Congress. This showed his all encompassing vision.

Despite his differences he was of the opinion that all should join hands to throw off the shackles of slavery without weakening the movement. Due to this thinking he did not express his displeasure on Congress support to ‘Khilafat’ Movement, though he had differences with Mahatma Gandhi on this issue. He participated under the leadership of Gandhi in the non-cooperation movement and suffered jail term.

To achieve Independence is very important for any society but to create a society infused with national values, ethos and character to uphold and protect the freedom was more necessary and fundamental. Dr Hedgewar realised this and decided to start the RSS in 1925. He mingled with the youths and led them by his example through the technique of daily shakha, which happens to be real forte of RSS. Worship of strength, collectivism, discipline, patriotism, national pride and love and compassion for entire society and work selflessly for the society with full dedication were some of the virtues he wanted to inject and infuse into the Hindu society through the technique of daily shakha. Traversing the entire country in spite of his falling health, he succeeded in spreading the countrywide network of RSS in the short span of 15 years.

He did not have slightest of hesitation to use modern means to obtain desired results even though he had deep faith in our age-old culture and traditions. He always used to project his comrades to the forefront of the work and it was this style of his that laid a very strong, unshakable foundation of the RSS.

He not only kept in touch with various movements in the society aimed at Independence of the country even after he founded the RSS, but he also participated in them. In 1930, he participated in Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience Movement and participated in ‘Jungle Satyagraha’ in Vidarbha and suffered a nine-month jail term at Akola. But he also took care of RSS and appointed Dr LW Paranjape, his close associate as Sarsanghachalak and made arrangements of senior swayamsevaks to look after the Sangh work. The society was then divided in Congress, Revolutionary, Tilakites, Gandhites, Hindu Mahasabhaites and so on. Dr Hedgewar kept himself aloof from all such fractions yet he had good cordial relations with all of them. He sailed the RSS through such turbulences like an expert captain.

He ensured that RSS does not become yet another organisation in the society. He developed RSS as an organisation of the entire society. He introduced the tradition of ‘Guru Dakshina’ to make RSS self-reliant and self-sufficient. He placed the traditional ‘Bhagwa Dhwaj’, a symbol of dedication, renunciation, and selfless service, as the ideal ‘guru’. He was against projecting any individual as “guru” because he was aware of the shortcomings of an individual. That is why the RSS work is spreading to new areas and constituencies even after nine decades without diversions.

Dr Hedgewar was free from the ego of being the founder of RSS. Though he agreed to be Sarsanghachalak on the requests of his colleagues in 1929, he expressed his mind in 1933 meeting of the Sanghachalaks thus:
“I am fully aware of the fact that I am not the father or founder of the RSS; I am only performing the duties of a foster-mother of RSS as per your wish and would continue to do this so long as you wish and desire.

I would not care for any difficulty, problem or insult, etc. “Whenever you feel that RSS is suffering owing to my incompatibility you are free to appoint any proper and competent person to the post. I will owe my allegiance to the new incumbent and work as a devoted swayamsevak as happily as I have opted to work as per your order. For me personality does not matter. It is the mission of Sangh that matters, therefore, I would not hesitate to do any work in the interest of the Sangh”.

These thoughts of RSS founder Dr Hedgewar throw sufficient light on his unattached attitude and dedicated personality.

Dr Hedgewar introduced common uniform, route march, band, military drill, camps etc. to inculcate virtues like collective discipline, and rising above the self attitude amongst the swayamsevaks.

This was a very revolutionary and radical thought considering the social condition of his time. He did not give much importance to criticism against RSS, avoided debates and discussions and insisted on established cordial relations even with his opponents.

He followed the Sanskrit dictum that said ‘avoid debate’ and ‘sans opposition from all’. He remained firm in praise and criticism. Nothing could dislodge or dissociate him from his chosen path. He would accept the praise as inspiration to speed up Sangh work and criticism as ignorance of the critics.

In 1936, Shankaracharya Vidyashankar Bharati honoured him with the title of “Rashtra Senapati”. This news got wide publicity and letters started pouring in. But he directed all the swayamsevaks to refrain from using this honorary title as this would be in contrast with our nature. He even discouraged those who wanted to write his biography. “The nation first” attitude he created thus in the RSS.

He would teach not with words but with actions. He used to say that people would judge and like the RSS as they experience the RSS and not by publicity. We have sown the seed, now without discussing or publicising it we should work for nurturing it. The fruits would make the identity of the person who had sown the seeds known.

Therefore, even after his death, in spite of the difficulties, upheavals in national life, the RSS is marching on its chartered course undisturbed, unfazed encompassing the entire society. This success story of RSS is in fact the success story of Doctor Hedgewar’s dedicated, epoch-making, and meaningful life as an organiser par excellence.

Dr Manmohan Vaidya (The writer is Akhil Bharatiya Prachar Pramukh of RSS)

British Reports on the RSS and the Quit India Movement

By Rakesh Sinha

Prime Minister Narendra Modi evoked the significance of the month of August in India’s freedom movement in a recent Mann ki Baat – today, for instance, is the 75th anniversary of the launch of the Quit India movement. True to form, Congress and the Left were quick to taunt him about the role of his parent organisation, RSS, in that movement.

This was expected – political discourse and academic writings, comprising mainly history textbooks, have for decades incessantly slandered RSS for its alleged communal and pro-British role during the anti-colonial movement. History, however, suffers distortion whenever the present is used to contextualise the past guided by ideological predisposition. Facts reveal an altogether different reality from Marxist and Nehruvian historians’ narratives on RSS.

RSS cadre strength was assessed as nearly 1,50,000, spread among various age groups across the country, in the Home Department’s 1939-40 report on volunteer organisations. The British government initiated a recruitment drive for the army, ARP and Civic Guards when World War II broke out. The Hindu Mahasabha and many other Hindu organisations – which included Nathuram Godse’s Hindu Rashtra Sena – viewed this as an opportunity to militarily train their cadres for waging war against the British at an opportune time. They fully cooperated in organising camps and acted as recruiting agents.

RSS, however, rejected this outlook outright, a fact that wasn’t ignored by the regime. In June 1939, the Home Department suggested the Central Provinces government use Section 16 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (XIV of 1908) to ban RSS, by then the strongest outfit in the province. The province’s chief secretary GM Trivedi wrote to the central government on May 22, 1940, that it was not feasible as it would lead to huge protests in the province.

In the 1930s, even the use of softer methods to curb RSS had brought wrath and humiliation upon the government. The Sangh’s decision to participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement erased the government’s delusion that it was a tail of the Hindu Mahasabha. CP & Berar police’s fortnightly report stated that RSS founder Hedgewar’s participation had invigorated the movement. He led thousands of sataygrahis and suffered a year’s rigorous imprisonment.

The Sangh’s anti-British stance now invited suppression by an infuriated government. The Home Department report stated, “Of late, the Sangh has started taking interest in political movements of the country, as a result of which the CP government in their circular letter No 2352-2158 IV; dated 15/16 December 1932, was compelled to issue an order warning government servants of the communal and political nature of the Sangh, and forbidding their becoming members or participating in the organisation’s activities.”

After a two-day discussion on the ideology, organisation and the role of the RSS on March 7-8, 1934, the government was completely isolated and failed to prove RSS involvement in communal activities. House leader Raghvendra Rao failed to answer MS Rahman’s query on any representation by any Muslim individual or organisations against RSS or of any evidence the government had on its communal activities. Rahman and others praised the RSS; the government had to withdraw its circular.

On August 5, 1940 under the Defence of India Rules, the central government promulgated an ordinance prohibiting drills, use of uniforms and exercises. Any idea that this would stymie the Sangh’s mobilisation proved futile. Hundreds of RSS volunteers courted arrest in violation of the order.

RSS participation in the Quit India movement was the proverbial last straw for British rulers. In August that year, in Chimur and Ashti, RSS cadre dominated Congress processions and attacked police stations, with police in these talukas coming forth with the severest repression of the people. Those hanged and awarded life imprisonment were mostly RSS volunteers. The Sangh’s growing integration with the movement created consternation; the government feared an armed coup with RSS and Indian National Army (INA) sharing common sentiments.

British anxiety had good reason. A report warned that RSS volunteers had “infiltrated into various departments of the government such as the army, navy, post & telegraphs, railways and administrative services so that there may be no difficulty in capturing administrative departments when the time comes”. It further stated “the organisation is intensely anti-British and its tone is increasingly becoming militant.”

The noting of Home Department official GA Ahmed, on December 13, 1943, unravels the government’s real intention: “the holding of all camps by any organisation whatever should be prohibited by an order under the Defence of India Rules. This will hit the RSS most, as its main activity is the organisation of camps.” Subsequently, the Sangh’s training camps were raided and literature and arms were seized, besides the arrest of organisers.

RSS participation in Gandhian movements did not annihilate its instinct and ambition to overthrow colonial rule by armed revolution. The Sangh’s weakness is not its absence from the freedom movement, but lack of intellectual rigour among its own academics.

Conversely, communists’ privilege flows not from their participation in any national movement (their treacherous role in the freedom movement is well known), but from a strong contingent of committed academics. We owe it to ourselves not to allow the nation’s history to be circumscribed by ideological dogmas any longer.

Courtesy: Times of India Article ” This day, 75 years ago : Participation of RSS in the freedom movement, including Quit India agitation”

Also Read :

Doctor Hedgewar Founder of RSS and the Freedom Movement 

RSS and Bharat’s Freedom – A Glorious Tradition 

Tigresses in Olive Green

A true life war zone incident of a lady Doctor of the Indian Army, her story of grit and  Hippocrates Oath that Doctors serve under, even if a General has to be disciplined in the process .

It was a biting cold, late winter evening in Jan 2004, at Baramula – a border town with the notorious and well-deserved reputation for being the hub of terrorism in North Kashmir. I was the GOC (General Officer Commanding) of the Division Headquartered there. It was past the witching hour and I must have dozed off in the first interlude of sleep in an active, 18 hour day when I got a call on the phone. The operator displayed his urgency by prefacing the call as  Urgent “IED (improvised explosive device) phata hai, Sahib. Capt Devika Gupta aap se baat karna chahti hain. MI (Medical Inspection) Room se bol rahi hain…”

Kashmir sleeps with its weapons and I was no different. In two minutes, I was in uniform. The QRT (Quick Response Team) was ready too and we were racing out of the GOC’s Bungalow nestling on the banks of the River Jhelum. The MI Room was close by and when I arrived, there was subdued activity. The RR (Rashtriya Rifles) soldier was part of a Unit crossing Baramula for a night domination patrol when he had stepped on an IED disguised as a transistor. His intestines had spilt out and his team had rushed him to the MI Room, where the Medical Officer, Capt Devika Gupta her hands encased in bloodied white gloves right up to her shoulders started stitching him skillfully to stop his intense bleeding. It was touch and go!

My staff had reacted fast and placed a Armoured Car – a South African made mine proof bullet proof Casiper and a duty Gurkha QRT to escort the lady doctor and patient to the Base Hospital at Srinagar 60 kms away if that was needed. All part of Standard Operating Procedure during my time as GOC.

Capt Devika told me on arrival, “Sir, It is touch and go. Have put almost 150 stitches on him. He has to reach the ICU at Srinagar for immediate operating as his vitals are collapsing. I need to monitor him and hold a drip otherwise he will die on my hands. Need an open jeep, not this “cramped tank”. She called the narrow ceilinged Casiper that was meant for war, not casualty evacuation.

It was past 1 AM now and the Baramula-Pattan road was notorious for terrorist fire on our convoys because the road was cut through low hills and gullies near Pattan, a very trouble prone area. I was the GOC and was morally responsible for any orders I gave. In this case, I felt that she had to go in a Casiper if she was not to lose the patients and her life in an ambulance Gypsy and told her the same in no uncertain terms.

Generals are trained to anticipate trouble and the moment I said what I had to and my men started jumping to respond, a quiet, firm, authoratative voice intervened. “Just a minute General sir” That was Capt Devika in a voice that wasn’t hers, so my mind registered. She was dressed in a blood spattered Green military Sari and had just got up from her stitching of the soldier’s abdomen. She was actually just five feet tall, petite, well-mannered, very good in her job but for some reason, when she pulled herself up and snapped her beret on over her short hair that dark night, with about 50 odd soldiers and officers watching, she seemed to me to be taller than I.. She was!

She walked up to me close enough for me to see her angry, flashy, blazing eyes. “Sir who’s the GOC?” “Have you any doubt?” I asked her. No, she said, “I have no doubt. Now tell me, who is the doctor who’s treating the soldier?” I understood. GOC’s aren’t stupid. Anyone would understand and I certainly did. “Sir, the boy is my patient. Do not interfere. If you do, you will carry the responsibility for his death. I will carry him in the open Gypsy, NOT the Casiper. If I die, my husband will grieve for me. You need not bother (he was a Medical Specialist at the Base Hospital, a great lad whom I had met at the BH while looking up my wounded soldiers)…and sir, you can later court martial me if you wish but let me go now”.

With all my men waiting for my reaction at being “dressed down” by this chit of a girl with three years service to my 36 years. I did the only thing any officer and gentleman would have in a war zone. I saluted her.

“Capt Devika, I am sorry I interfered. Go. God is with you”. There were at least two people hiding their tears that dark night and she was just one of them.

The drama had yet not unfolded. At Pattan, the area I was most worried about, one of her Gurkha escort vehicles broke down at about 2.30 AM. The brave gutsy doctor asked her escort to catch up after repairing the broken down vehicle and proceeded the last 30 kilometers unescorted in her open Gypsy.. Unescorted by other than her courage and God who was with her!

On the terror grid, no one is given special privileges, man or woman as everyone is committed to specific jobs so it was with enormous relief when Devika called me up at 4.30 AM. “Sir, the soldier has been operated upon and will make it. I joined in the operation.. It is Sunday. Can I have half a day off? You are aware I am 6 months pregnant and my hubby has arranged for my term tests”

That morning I called up the Corps Commander. The Army Commander was in station and was spoken to. So was the Chief! Three days later, she was awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Commendation Card for her heroism and devotion to duty.. a rare honour!

Months later this Tigress had delivered a baby. A child who would one day hear about a great, fiesty Mum. A woman who sorted out a protective General and won!

When some of my peers say or write that women are not suited for the Uniform, I react very strongly in their favour because the women I have seen and interacted with were Tigresses to the core. They are as lean, mean & keen as any man. Walk the same walk!

Hats off to the Tigresses in Olive Green!

Written By: Maj. Gen. Raj Mehta AVSM, VSM (Retd)