My attackers deserve to be punished, says Lt Gen Brar
Dinesh Kumar in Mumbai
My attackers deserve to be punished and I hope they will be punished adequately and will get what they deserve,” says Lt General Kuldip Singh Brar (retd), who led the 1984 Operation Bluestar.
“I feel no sorrow for them,” he adds saying he is aware that the attackers who had launched a murderous assault on him in London had been indoctrinated as they had otherwise been quite young at the time of the operation that took place over 29 years ago.
While speaking to The Tribune, Lt General Brar, who was attacked by four Sikh youths on the night of September 30, 2012 while on a vacation with his wife on a street in central London, says he will never go to the UK again. The quantum of punishment for the four convicts, comprising three attackers and a woman accomplice, is scheduled to be announced by a London court tomorrow.
“I love the UK but would like to avoid going there. I am not keen anymore (to visit the UK). There is no fun in going to a place where you have to keep looking over your shoulder and watching your back and ending up becoming wary each time you see someone suspicious,” says Lt General Brar who, as General Officer Commanding (GOC) 9 Division in the rank of major general, led Operation Bluestar, which involved Army troops entering the Golden Temple, to forcibly evict Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed militia that had been spreading terror in Punjab at that time.
The Army lost 83 soldiers, including four officers, while another 248, including 13 officers, were wounded in the operation, which Lt General Brar describes as his Army career’s “most difficult” and “traumatic” assignment.
Lt General Brar is also averse to visiting the Golden Temple. “I have never been there after Operation Bluestar. I have seen it at its worst and there was no religious sanctity whatsoever then. Operation Bluestar restored the sanctity. Visiting the Golden Temple will bring back all sorts of memories, some unhappy which I would not like to relive. I am aware there is a lot of anger against me.
Why revive that anger by going there?” he says adding that he will not entirely rule out ever visiting the Sikh shrine.
Life for Lt General Kuldip Singh Brar has changed “hell of a lot” and “is no longer as comfortable as it used to be”. Travel has become “severely restricted” for the retired Lieutenant General who’s security has been upgraded to Z-plus.
From earlier being able to drive off in his micro-sized Nano car to either meet his friends or shop at will, Lt General Brar now has a revised security setup comprising both police commandos and Army men who follow him every time he steps out of his house located in the high-security Navy Nagar here.
Crowded places are often avoided and his travel plans out of Mumbai are well-coordinated. He now has to inform the Army a week in advance for every domestic travel and three weeks in advance for every travel overseas. Yet Lt General Brar hasn’t stopped travelling - he has twice travelled overseas since the attack.
Lt General Brar is full of praise for the doctors who attended on him after the attack, the professionalism of the police and prosecution, and the speed with which the courts have tried the case. “The entire process - from investigation to trial - was completed in 10 months. Here it would have taken years and nothing would have happened,” he says.
Lt General Brar, who declined to go to the UK to depose when approached by the London Metropolitan Police, appeared before the court through video conferencing - a rare if not an altogether first time hookup for an Indian by a court overseas.
The linkup was done at the Taj Hotel, incidentally a major scene of the 26/11 attacks by Pakistani terrorists, over three days from July 16 to 18.
He was examined for a couple of hours each day - first by the prosecution and then by the defence. The sole person present in the room was an official from the London Metropolitan Police who only assisted with the video linkup equipment.
His wife was examined once on the last day. Both were not allowed together into the video link room and were asked not to discuss the case among themselves during the days the proceedings were on. “We honoured that,” said Mrs Brar.
Lt General Brar, who was stabbed in the back, on the cheek and the neck, has since fully recovered from the attack except for some numbness in the neck area which is expected to disappear with time. During the video conferencing, he was handed a sketch of the scene of the attack and shown a detailed CCTV footage of his movements of that evening.
The defence, he said, asked him questions about Operation Bluestar with the intent of building a case that it had caused a lot of anger and hurt among the Sikh community. At one point, the defence even asked whether he had been the first to attack the convicts.
During the video link, Lt General Brar says he could see the judge, the prosecutor lawyer, three defence lawyers and some media men in the background but never the accused who were convicted without his having to identify them. The UK is quite harsh in dealing with terrorism and their message is that they will not allow such activity, he says adding that there continues to be a lot of propaganda eulogising Bhandranwale and Khalistan overseas.
House committee for review of golf courses on defence land
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 9
Parliament’s top audit screening body — the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) — has asked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to review its policy of allowing golf courses on its land and has separately come down heavily on the MoD asking how property valued at Rs 11,000 crore was fetching a ‘meagre’ annual rent of Rs 2.13 crore.
The PAC, headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, in its report on “Defence estate management” tabled today said, “The committee deplores the gross misuse of golf courses and recommends that the entire policy of the golf courses be revisited comprehensively and appropriate remedial action taken to ensure that the recreational facilities needed for the armed forces are not misused or abused in any manner.”
Terming it an ‘unauthorised use of defence land for golf and other activities’, the PAC said, “Golf cannot be considered a military activity. Under the Cantonment Land Administration Rules, 1937, the recreation grounds which are not strictly reserved for the use of troops alone can’t be used for golf courses.”
The committee said it was surprised to note that in 2004, the Chief of the Army declared golf as a sports activity. The Chief had directed that no commercial activity would be undertaken on the golf courses such as sponsoring golf tournaments by corporate entities.
The committee said, “It was shocked to find that defence authorities had been offering membership of the golf courses to civilians on payment basis so much so that in places like Delhi, even foreign diplomats were being given membership. The revenue generated from the civilian membership was not being credited to the government account.”
On leases & encroachments
Commenting on the management of leases, the committee said that as on March 2010, some 2,500 acres valuing Rs 11,033 crore was on lease for an annual rent of Rs 2.13 crore which is a pittance considering the market value of the land.
“There are no visible efforts to renew 3,780 cases of lease renewal. In 1,800 cases, no requests were received for lease renewal and in 1081 cases, the status of leases was unknown”.
Separately dealing with the issue of encroachment on defence land, the PAC said non-mutation of land records and non-utilisation of vast tracts of defence land only encouraged encroachment. These encroachments had increased from 6,903 acres in January 1997 to 14,539 acres in July 2009.
The committee found that clubs and parks established for the benefit of defence personnel and their families are exploited by civilians for organising parties, marriages, exhibitions, etc.
“Worse, the proceeds from such events are not being credited to the government’s account. There are instances of illegal constructions on such parks”. The PAC has asked the MoD to set up an inquiry in the matter.
The audit scrutiny had centred around: Lacunae in application of land norms, variations in records of actual land holdings, computerisation of defence land records, mutation of defence land, non-utilisation or underutilisation of acquired land, commercial use of land, encroachment on defence land, unauthorised use of defence land for golf and other activities, defence land being used for schools, unauthorised use of defence land for parks and clubs, payment of compensation, dismal state of management of leases, cases of delay in renewal of leases and irregularities in management of old grant sites.
AFT relief to Army docs not granted service extension
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, December 9
The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has quashed policy amendments under which service rules were altered retrospectively, thereby denying extension of service and grant of permanent commission to many short service commissioned officers in the medical branch.
Disposing of a bunch of petitions, the Tribunal has held that the impugned policy was bad in the eyes of law and could not be sustained. Holding the petitioners eligible for grant of extension in terms of the earlier policy that was in vogue before the impugned policy, the Tribunal has also quashed the release orders of the doctors and directed the Defence Ministry to consider their cases for grant of permanent commission.
The petitioners had claimed that the extension of the tenures of short service medical officers would be automatic subject to fulfillment of laid down criteria, which they all complied with. They had also received a letter in 2001, informing the same.
In 2012, however, a new policy was issued, stipulating that the extension would not be automatic but selection based and also changing the eligibility criteria. In November last year, the cases of 97 short service officers were commissioned and 47 were rejected.
They contended that they had joined the Army Medical Corps (AMC) on the specific assurance that their extension was automatic as long as they fulfilled the earlier criteria and that the new policy, which was made effective retrospectively by linking it with merit-cum-availability of vacancies, operated unequally among short service officer who were similarly placed. They added that even though the vacancies were available, the respondents, on some arbitrary reasoning, decided to release experienced officers.
The vacancies in the AMC for short service officers had been reduced by 50 per cent and there were to be replaced by fresh recruits.
The AFT has quashed policy amendments altering service rules retrospectively
The tribunal held the policy was bad in the eyes of law and could not be sustained
The policy denied grant of permanent commission to many short service commissioned officers in medical branch.
DRDO losing its trained scientists, says Antony
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, December 9
Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO), tasked with producing military equipment, continues to lose scientists involved in crucial development projects. A total of 443 scientists resigned from the DRDO during 2008-2012 whereas another 44 scientists quit during 2013 (till November 30), Defence Minister AK Antony told the Parliament today.
Actually, there is a healthy decline in the number of scientists quitting over the previous five years. In April 2008, Antony had told the House that a whopping 1,107 scientists had put in papers between 2003-07.
Antony revealed that the scientists have cited personal and domestic grounds as the reasons for quitting the DRDO. “However, it is assumed that the increased opportunities and incentives available in other organisations and industries is the main reason of such resignations,” Antony’s reply said.
He listed the incentives announced to discourage the exodus. These include two additional increments on promotion to each grade, up to six variable increments on promotions granted on fast track and professional update allowance to all scientists.
J-K Legislative Council panel summons Gen VK Singh
Tribune News Service
Jammu, December 9
The Privilege Committee of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council today decided to ask former Army Chief General VK Singh to appear in person before it on January 9 to explain his position on allegations that politicians in the state were paid by the Army.
The decision was taken in a meeting of the Privilege Committee held here today under the chairmanship of Jugal Kishore Sharma and comprising MLCs Devender Singh Rana, Ravinder Kumar Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Monga, Ali Mohammad Dar and Showkat Hussain Ganai.
The privilege motion against VK Singh was moved by MLCs Ajay Sadhotra, Devender Singh Rana and Khalid Najeeb Suhrawardy in the last session of the council taking cognisance of his allegations during a TV interview. The other privilege motions moved by the Legislators were also discussed.
Army gets final nod to deploy 80,000 troops along China border
NEW DELHI: The ball has been set rolling for the Army to raise a new mountain "strike" corps with two "independent" infantry brigades and two "independent" armoured brigades, totalling over 80,000 soldiers, along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
While the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on July 17 had cleared the new mountain corps and brigades, as was then reported by TOI, the defence ministry has now issued the "government sanction letter" to the Army for the new raising to be undertaken.
The new corps — the 1.13-million strong Indian Army already has three "strike" corps among the 13 such formations but they are largely geared towards Pakistan - will eventually have its headquarters at Panagarh in West Bengal.
The new formation to be called 17 Corps, along with its infrastructure, will come up over seven years at a cost of around Rs 90,000 crore. "Officers and soldiers are already being earmarked for posting to the new corps," said an official.
With additional armoured regiments and infantry units based in Ladakh, Sikkim and Uttarakhand, the new mountain corps will for the first time give India the capability to also launch a counter-offensive into Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the event of a Chinese attack.
As part of the overall plan for "major force accretion" along the "northern borders" with China, two new infantry divisions (35,000 soldiers and 1,260 officers), have already been raised at Lekhapani and Missamari in Assam in 2009-10. Their operational tasking is the defence of Arunachal Pradesh, which China often claims as its territory.
The new corps, with two specialized high-altitude divisions for "rapid reaction force capability in mountains", will add to all this. This will give India, which for long has focused on the land borders with Pakistan, some offensive teeth against China as well.
This is critical because China has "aggressively'' strengthened its military capabilities in TAR, with at least five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads. This allows China to move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1 there.
In 20 years, 124 Army men held guilty of rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir
As many as 124 Army personnel, including 41 officers, have been found guilty of human rights violations and awarded exemplary punishments in the past 20 years in Jammu and Kashmir.
"As many as 124 personnel, including 41 officers, found guilty of these violations were expeditiously tried by Army courts and awarded exemplary punishments ranging from dismissal from service without any service benefits to imprisonment (during last over 20 years)," PRO, Ministry of Defence, Northern Command, Lt Col Rajesh Kalia said today.
During the past 20 years, 1,524 allegations of human rights violations against Army personnel serving in Northern Command have been received, Lt Col Kalia said.
"Each and every allegation was enquired into by an independent and autonomous body and 42 of these allegations were found to be true," he said.
In his message on the eve of Human Rights Day today, Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra, GOC-in-C, Northern Command directed all troops in Jammu & Kashmir to ensure Zero Human Rights violations during conduct of counter Terrorist Operations.
The Indian Army has one of the finest record for ensuring that human rights of its citizens are protected and the importance given to human rights is evident from the fact that a human rights branch at the Army headquarters has been functioning since March 1993 and such branches exist in formations up to Brigade and Sector level.
"There are a few ongoing cases which are being closely monitored, ensuring Rule of Law and proceedings as enunciated by the Army Act," Lt Col Kalia said.
"Anyone found guilty shall face the law. This amply demonstrates that all cases of alleged human rights violations are thoroughly investigated and personnel found guilty are promptly punished," the Defence PRO said.
US defense secretary to meet Pakistan's prime minister
ISLAMABAD: US defense secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Pakistan on Monday for meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the nation's new army chief, hoping to further repair a strained and sputtering relationship between Washington and Islamabad.
His visit comes on the heels of the latest interruption of US military shipments out of Afghanistan through the main border crossings into Pakistan. Anti-American protests along the route in Pakistan prompted the US to stop the shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi last week, due to worries about the safety of the truckers.
The protests centre on the CIA's drone program, which has targeted and killed many terrorists but has also caused civilian casualties. Pakistan has called the drone attacks a violation of the country's sovereignty, but the issue is muddied by the fact that Islamabad and the Pakistani military have supported at least some of the strikes in the past.
The Pakistani government blocked the routes for seven months following US airstrikes that accidentally killed two dozen soldiers on the Afghan border in November 2011. Pakistan finally reopened the routes after the US apologized.
The rift led the US to sever most aid to Pakistan for some time, but relations were restored in July 2012. Since then, US has delivered more than $1.15 billion in security assistance to Pakistan, including advanced communications equipment, roadside bomb jammers, night vision goggles and surveillance aircraft.
A senior defence official said these issues will come up in Hagel's meetings, and acknowledged the lingering tensions between the two countries. Over the past year, relations between Washington and Islamabad have been improving, and Sharif met with President Barack Obama and Hagel in late October in Washington.
Hagel is expected to tell Pakistani leaders that the US wants the border crossings to remain open, said the defence official, who was not authorized to discuss the private meeting plans publicly and requested anonymity.
US has also been frustrated by Pakistan's unwillingness to target the Haqqani terrorist network, which operates along the border and conducts attacks on US and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Defence officials said Hagel will be the first high-ranking US official to meet with General Rahaeel Sharil, who took over as head of Pakistan's powerful army at the end of last month.
Following their meeting in Rawalpindi, Hagel and Sharil echoed each other's desire to work to strengthen the countries' relationship.
The last Pentagon chief to visit Pakistan was Robert Gates in January 2010.
Hagel flew to Pakistan from Afghanistan, where he visited US troops but declined to meet with President Hamid Karzai, who has rankled the US by refusing to sign a security agreement before year's end.
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