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Surya Gangadharan
Tuesday , March 26, 2013 at 16 : 31

Something's churning in that feudal institution called the Indian Army


"In the army it's the habitual malingerers, malcontents and rogues who deliver in combat," said the young colonel. In his view, many of the jawans found guilty of indiscipline by a tribunal probing the Nyoma incident last April, may have been rogues and malcontents. But they were also people who would not let you down when the bullets started flying.

"I never punished a single jawan when I was commanding my battalion," the colonel said. "If they came late from leave I didn't remove them from service or dock their pay, there are other methods of ensuring discipline. Frankly a commander must have a large heart."

His concern (evident among other officers) was for the jawans, many of whom are likely to be removed from service. The army doesn't give pensions to those who are sent home before completing the mandatory 16 years. In effect the jawans who joined service leaving behind the poverty of their villages, return with nothing.

The Nyoma incident (and resultant publicity) has shaken the army. But there have been far worse incidents in the past. In the wake of Operation Blue Star in 1984, an estimated 2,000 Sikh jawans deserted. Cases of fratricide were also reported frequently some years ago. That seems to have died down although incidents continue to take place.

More recently and not in the same 'class' as Nyoma, a jawan climbed a mobile phone tower in Delhi demanding to see the army chief. He was persuaded to come down but only after a senior officer heard him out. Clearly, something's churning in that feudal institution called the Indian Army with uncertain prospects for the future.


More about Surya Gangadharan

Surya Gangadharan is International Affairs Editor at CNN IBN and was in Egypt to cover the anti-government movement. He has covered wars in Afghanistan, the UN intervention in Somalia and Rwanda, elections in Pakistan and the civil conflict in Sri Lanka where he interviewed the top leadership of that time. He has worked for the Straits Times Group in Singapore and also for PTI, the Indian Express and India Today in India.