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Don't dishonour a brave soldier
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Lt Gen Harwant Singh | Date:24 Jan , 2013 3 Comments
Lt Gen Harwant Singh
Former Deputy Chief of Army Staff. He also commanded a corps in J&K.

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 manner 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.

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.

A DIG rank officer of the police was shot just out side 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 is 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.

His role in Operation Blue Star was such that any other devout Sikh soldier would have ungrudgingly undertaken.

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.

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3 thoughts on “Don’t dishonour a brave soldier

  1. The General is once again off base.
    He forgets that Bhindranwale was a fabrication and ploy of Indira Gandhi. The army officers were badly brainwashed into thinking their govt was right.
    It is one thing for a soldier to obey orders, but quite another for him to realize what is right or wrong/ That is why so many people consider military people dumb as hell.
    If a soldier (or general) was ordered by his government to arrest (or kill) his brother and parents, would he obey? Worse, if the evidence was shady and fragmented, would he still do it? Gen Harwant is spreading the wrong moral message altogether, one that puts most Sikh army officers of the time to shame.
    Even a soldier can disobey an order on justifiable grounds, and that’s what all Sikh officers should have done during 1984. No wonder, Sikh officers from the time of 1984 have lost respect within their own community. And, if a Sikh officer goes against his own Guru, he’s damned for a long time to come. It doesn’t matter that the Sikh general had a following of a corps or an army: if the Guru does not give his grace to the person, nothing is of avail.
    Nava khanda vich jaaniye, naal chale sab koye …
    Je tis naddar na awiye te vaat na puche koi.
    It is time that Generals step off their high horse and come to terms with mainstream India.
    RS Dayal might have been a great soldier, but if he didn’t have common spiritual and religious sense, his soul might already be rotting in hell.
    Gen Harwant: you are doing a disservice to the nation and to the Sikhs by promoting the obeyance of unwarranted and illegal orders of attacking civilians of one’s own country. The message you are spreading among army officers is nothing short of saying that blind loyalty is all that matters. In fact, blind loyalty is blindness: the Ind
    Finally, do you know that Narasimha Rao himself ordered guns and ammunition sent in trucks to the Golden Temple …?
    Next time, please learn a lot more before opening your mouth or writing something

  2. It seems the most important COAS among them, has two Sikh’s. The present COAS, is among only two Sikh’s to be COAS. I did notice, that when J. J. Singh spoke at the India Today Conclave, then he seemed very earthy, and his urbane side was not as apparent as he appears to represent urbanity. I hope I am not immodest, but he seems to be among the best Generals, because he has other interests also, and these are a consideration.

  3. It seems, the Sikh religion follows the same ideals as many Vaishnavite thoughts. The Hindu does go to Gurudwara’s but Sikh’s do not generally visit temples, which are Hindu. As I see it, in 1984, during Operation Bluestar, two Sikhs were confronting each other, and contesting that the other was not Sikh, and that one was seen as anti-national, while the other was making the claim, is not important in relation to the Golden Temple. If one Sikh can tell another, that he is not, according to the first, he is making the other seem anti-God, and religion. The political parties say, religion and state are different, but the Sikh’s are religious, and they are the majority in Punjab. The people who vote in New Delhi, are mostly Punjabi, while New Delhi shares her border with Uttar Pradesh, and perhaps, or not, Haryana. In such situations, the complex is visible.

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