Sunday, 7 December 2014

Young army officers blame commanders for Uri debacle on social media

Pre-cooked meals with Urdu markings recovered from six dead terrorists who attacked an army post in Uri

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 7th Dec 2014

A day after eight army soldiers, including an officer, died in a militant strike on a military camp near Uri, in Jammu & Kashmir, anger is bubbling amongst junior officers who say over-cautious commanders have tied their hands.

In a WhatsApp message that is racing through army networks, the Uri debacle has been blamed on tight operational restrictions allegedly imposed after two Kashmiri boys were mistakenly shot dead on November 3 by soldiers manning a check point near Chattergam village, in Anantnag district of south Kashmir.

Then, in a swift attempt to quell public outrage, the army had ordered an inquiry that found nine soldiers of 53 Rashtriya Rifles culpable. Northern army commander, Lieutenant General DS Hooda, publicly admitted the army had made a mistake.

Days later, on November 13, an army court martial sentenced five soldiers, including two officers, to life imprisonment for killing three innocent Kashmiris in a fake encounter in the Macchil sector of north Kashmir in 2010.

In the bitter WhatsApp message, an unidentified officer has directly held his top commanders responsible for the Uri debacle.

“As per reports, soldiers on the sentry duty on the army camp [at Uri], did not fire upon the approaching terrorist vehicle due to caution imposed on them after the Anantnag incident (sic)”, says the WhatsApp message.

The message goes on: “When [the] Anantnag incident took place last month, corps commander of 15 corps and Army Commander of Northern Command had both called it a mistake… Should not the Army Cdr (commander) and Corps cdr (commander) consider resigning for this goof up (sic).”

"Now, what do they have to say? They had betrayed their own soldiers, who became cautious and the result is for everyone to see.”

Highlighting a worrying faultline, the message demands (capitals in original): “GENERALS SHOULD STOP PLAYING TO [THE] GALLERY AND MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS AND ALLOW SOLDIERS TO DO THEIR JOB.”

Such bitterness is growing in combat unit and sub-unit commanders, who are caught between senior officers’ demands to “deliver results”, i.e. to kill militants; while at the same time uphold the human rights of locals, most of whom sympathise with militants, if not actively support them.

The army is scrambling to counter this unprecedented “social media” crisis. While nobody is speaking on the record, Business Standard learns the army is responding on social media, putting out a detailed account of the Uri incident. The aim is to prove that the militants benefited from laxity rather than from imposed restraints.

Says Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain, a highly regarded former corps commander in Srinagar: “It is unfair to blame top commanders for demanding restraint. Every officers knows exactly what restraint implies; and it does not restrict legitimate use of force against militants.”

Neither do accounts of the Uri strike support the view that soldiers’ were operationally restrained. The attack began at 3 a.m., a time when civilian movement is totally banned and every stranger is considered suspicious.

Senior commanders in Kashmir have stoutly resisted pleas to lift the Disturbed Areas notification from large parts of J&K, which means the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990 (AFSPA) would no longer apply in those areas. Even so, the army hierarchy is increasingly intolerant of human rights violations.

The WhatsApp message bitterly states: “We ought to accept such mistakes when we deploy the army for restoration of the situation. Everyone must understand the real purpose of AFSPA. It is meant to cover unintentional mistakes made by soldiers in the course of the performance of their duty.”

The WhatsApp message strongly reflects the soldiers’ viewpoint that they are doing a thankless job for seniors, leaders and a public that neither understands nor sympathises with the army.

The officer writes: “Why does not this nation and its leaders understand the nuances of this ‘Designer war’ heaped upon India by Pakistan since 1989? Unfortunately, even most military minds, both serving and retired, have failed to understand the reality of this war. It has nothing to do with 'Law and Order'; it is war, Sir! Most important, it is for Generals to understand and grasp its characteristics and stop reacting to civilian hue and cry (sic).”

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Colnel Ajai Shukla,

Just recently you have posted an article about removing AFPSA act in J&K and I have written a comment too...

I asked if you can go and live in Kashmir for a year and report from there...

I read a detailed report from many think tanks in USA and in one it says --- Upon entering the Pakistan Army Headquarters, one will see Islam and Jihad statement...

This is religious hatred and now see what would happen if India removes the act...Pakistan and Al Qaeda will send all the terrorists and there will be nothing we can do to protect ourselves not only in J&K but throughout India...

I think more prudent action is to abolish Article 370 based on voter participation and let whole India get into the development of J&K...

When there are jobs, very few people will get into terrorism...It will checkmate the separatists and terrorists...

Narotham Reddy

Anonymous said...

Balls to you Ajai Shukla

Anonymous said...

You western stooge Ajai Shukla

J Thomas said...

There's a world of difference between a check point near Chattergam village, in Anantnag district of south Kashmir and a military camp near Uri. The young officers posting in social media should appreciate the difference. The easiest way to lose the CI campaign is to over react and cause civilian casualties. A fine balance is required. Agreed that it is not easy. I am confident that the Indian Army will respond appropriately to the latest attack.

Anonymous said...

How is it known for sure that this Whatsup message is from an Army officer?

Anonymous said...

most of the seniors, who rise up to senior ranks have reached there not solely due to soldierly attributes. Lobbying, succession wars seen in recent years reflect on fast eroding basic ethos of soldiering. An overhaul is required, PM's public posturing of pro- armed forces stance does evoke some hope. Armed forces should not be deployed for policing. Laxity in defending self in any event is unpardonable and should be investigated.

abhijitbigfoot said...

Social media can be the bane of any organization that does not understand its implications to the organization.

If seniors in the veritable Army do not have a strategy that reflects an understanding of their public posture for a thankless public, and their private lethality for a ruthless enemy, then no one should be surprised if their juniors pay for it.

It has ever been thus.

The seething rage of the juniors must translate into lessons learned (and some justice) for their operational practices.

The two errors of judgement should be seen in tandem. No reason why the mistake of killing innocents should be any less serious than the attack from militants.

No one expects that the anti-terrorism operations in Kashmir will be error-free. We hope for errors from human shortcomings to be the least possible.

It is the experts' job to keep errors in perspective and learn the right lessons.

Indians don't think their Army is above mistakes. It is our defender and we are grateful. But the death of every single one of them must be cause for grief and edification.

I hope I am wrong in everything I say and that this is already how it is.

Ghorcharrah Gabbar said...

For once (and not the only time), the 'juniors' are wrong and bordering on the imbecilic. These are 'juniors' who are rash, immature, impatient and brash - forced to bear military responsibilities that, given their lack of service and exposure, are incompatible with their professional outlook and maturity. True we need mavericks to lead men in battle, but these fellas are no mavericks, at least most of them aren't. They are half-baked Academy products who are privilege-conscious and with poor people-skills. I know it as I have lived amongst them as they came in and see them to this day.

The Uri incident happened in the rear location of an artillery regiment (a gun area) adjacent to the Baramullah-Uri road (look up Google Earth - most likely 34.150739, probably 34.116962, 74.071591, less likely 74.140844 or 34.131699, 74.113725 least likely 34.126515, 74.086338). The artillery regiment would be operating in the counter-insurgency mode with bare essential security and administrative elements looking after the gun area(s) and the 'administrative rear'. Given the election fervour, the Army's focus on area domination and prophylactic security would be at an all-time high with consequent high fatigue and low troops availability for protecting own assets.

The silent Line of Control and the fact that the location in question is in an area inhabited more by non-Kashmiris (Gujjars and Paharis), would have lulled the Army into a false sense of security; as is always the case. I know it for a fact as I have served here - the exact sector in question.

We eugolise the dead as martyrs and create a national television brouhaha over the incident, much like professional 'rudalis' hired to mourn and moan at funerals in the rural countryside. I feel angry, dismayed and ashamed in shouting as to when will the dumb gentry of this country wake up and ask the Army for answers ?

Are we blind ? This represents a systemic failure. How did the terrorists cross the Line of Control and its multi-crore, multi-seasonal cash-cow, the vaunted Anti-Infiltration Obstacle System, or the exceptional troop density on the Line of Control? How did the vaunted 'joint' intelligence system fail after 20 years in the making and at a time when it should have been at its sensory best ? How did the Army's perimeter security and camp security response procedures fail so spectacularly ? After all defence against fidayeen attacks is a favoured Staff College and Junior Command as well as Senior Command course short note.

It is shameful to see the Army put out news releases that "they had AK-47s, each with 30 rounds with a total of 56 magazines...", "they carries 10 grenades each...", "the markings of food packets and medicines clearly shows Pakistani participation...". What seriously purile bullshit is this ? What did one expect - that they would carry INSAS rifles or Daisy BB pellet guns (blow-pipes?), Indian ammo and Maggi noodles? I see the imbecility of professionally challenged responses in the media put-outs by the Army. With a COAS and Army Commander from the Gurkhas... 'hoke haina'...'ramro' !

The hunting season is set to open... the secret is out that plump Army camps are at their vulnerable best. Let us wait and watch, may be the winter may just save the Army from further disgrace.

My fellow countrymen... it is time you pulled your fingers out. It's time you asked intelligent questions about the abilities, expenses and competence of the armed forces and the disposal of the tax payers' moneys instead of garlanding dead soldiers who really should never have died in the first place.

I mean five terrorists killing eleven soldiers in the darkness of first light at 3:00 a.m. ? Doesn't it say something ? Get more garlands ready !!!

Anonymous said...

Why not just create military rule and give up this farce of democracy and rule of law. It will be more efficient. Treat anything that walks as a threat to the nation!.

Anonymous said...

Pakistan repeatedly does this this because it 'perceives' India to be weak.Only option is to increase our def expenditure from 2.4 of GDP to close to what Pakistan has, 3.4% of GDP.This will improve our ammo holding as well as serviceablity of fighting equipment.No point talking and talking and talking.........

JAIPAL SHERGILL said...

Please understand,there is a war on in J & K, forced on us by Pakistan,even if it is covert. And in war, there is bound to be some collateral Damage. The commander on the the spot must be left to react to the situation without losing a moment,in order to defend his unit.Otherwise we will have more of Mahura and Uri in future.

Anonymous said...

We need to take the battle to the enemy. This one has been causing brutalities and massacres on the sub continent for a millennia. I hope our leaders are listening. We need to take the battle to the enemy!!

Anonymous said...

The cat of a divided army is now out. there is a divide in our Army which started by Gen retd VK please read this weeks the week magazine's cover story. as it is said divided we fall

Rajee Kushwaha said...

Ajay Shukla,

I thought as an ex army officer you would understand the military ethics more better than the other journalists. Unfortunately, you turned out worst than them. What are you trying to convey through this article? If someone has expressed his opinion on the Mahura incident, it is within the house. You know in the army desire of the senior is taken as a direction and no written orders are needed. You might like to ponder about some points : --1. there is a difference as to how soldiers take the words of their senior Commanders and the way journalists behave with their editors. No written instructions are needed by men under command. Mere expression of intent will send the message. But journalists won't understand this. 2. Tell me, if the sentries of Arty camp at Mohra were knocked out first and militants gained some foothold in the camp? There are five brave gunners who have fallen to the bullets of Terrorists. It is an indication that sentries allowed them to come close. Why? Probably inhibition and not laxity as some of you are portraying. 3. One Offr and two men from Punjab Regt seem to have laid down their lives . They must be from a QRT activated to dislodge the terrorists holed up in the camp. Obviously, they rushed in without proper information---Militants by now had the advantsge. 4.As reported the militants had infiltrated a week back, near Chakoti and covered almost 30 Kms to reach Mohra Camp--- presumably pre recce was done by them or their cootdinator'----, a sleeping agent. 5. I am sure they must have come across many road patrols of army on the highway. How come none checked them? May be they were helped by an innocent sleeping agent---- which is quite common, whom you call them as "innocent civilians". If civilians of yours are so innocent, Kashmir would NO have the army operating and no militancy in valley. Remember, there is NO head band which terrorists wear. 6. Then, how far off is the arty camp from the main road? Were there NO sentries on the gate? Was there no Patrol on the peripheri as is the drill? How did the sentries allow the militants to close in at 3 AM , if there were no inhibiting instrs? They should have fired, as you say, but they did not. And this is the more sensitive Area, where sentries are required to be more alert and vigilant. Something might have inhibited them that they remained passive, unless ofcourse you tell me our soldiers on sentry duty go to sleep. I think this is the problem with lesdership that they pass on the blame to lowest level. Moral responsibility demands Commanders to acknowledge their fault. 7. There is time to understand this form of war and prepare our army accordingly. WOM (War by Other Means) has been launched on India since 1989 and we fail to recognise its nuances even after 25 years. You see journalists like you continue to treat it as insurgency or Law & Order problem, while it is a FULL FLEDGED WAR AND KASHMIR IS A WAR ZONE. No sympathies are to be shown to those who do not follow RULES OF WAR ZONES. Most often the INNOCENT CIVILIANS help them. Do not call soldiers and their commanders as trigger happy. If journalists have a better solution go and tackle it. By the way what happened to your TIMES OF INDIA launched so called much hyped AMAN KI ASHA? Have you ushered in peace? Come out of your dreams. This war is NOT of soldier's making but people who sympathise with the enemies of India---- whether this or that side of border/ LC.

Rajee Kushwaha said...

Sheer bullshit----- wild figment of imagination of journalists, including those who once wore the olive green. These guys are just propping up stories to gain publicity. This is your and week magazine's pipe dream friend.

Anonymous said...

dear all ....there is some merit in what our friend gabar writes. although he has given a broad brush bashing to the competence of military craft, a half baked truth in my opinion. but let this be a call that all ranks while on combat duties must have their guards up at all times and give a befitting reply to these ill trained, misguided ANEs.
i will urge military scholars and journalists to do more research and find fault lines in military security systems and its present state of readiness

ashok said...

The ISI has trained and battle HARDENED
jihadis at its disposal . THE INDIAN ARMY IS IN ADEFENSIVE MINDSET . INDIAS WEAKNESS OF APPEASEMENT AND CONGRESS SECULARISM HAS RESULTED IN SEPRATISTS BEING FATTENED ON TAXPAYERS MONEY . THE SHAM OF ELECTIONS AND DEMOCRACY MUST STOP .THERE IS AWAR BEING FAUGHT AND THE INDIAN POLITCANS , BABUS INCLUDING COLLUDING GENERALS ARE BLIND TO THE ISLAMIC TERROR . HAND OVER J&KTO THE ARMY TO CLEAN THE STATE OF ANTI NATIONAL ELEMENTS . THE ARMIES INFANTRY ARMOURED ARTILLARY , AIRDEFENCE BE MODERNISED ON AWAR FOOTING . THE NON COMBAT UNITS , STATIONS ASC , ORDNANCE DEPOTS WILL REMAIN SOFT TARGETS . DEPLOY TECHNOLOGY , LASERS , TV RADAR INFRARED AND UAVS TO CONTROL EVERY INCH OF TERITORY .THE YOUNG OFFICERS JCOS , AND OTHER CDRS EMPOWERED TO GUN DOWN ALL TERROISTS. ARMIES CODE OF CONDUCT MUST DICOURAGE FAKE ENCOUNTERS , SHAM KILLINGS AND USING INNOCENTS. A HUMAN RIGHTS PROFESSIONAL
EMBEDDED IN EACH DIV , CORPS AND COMMAND HQS TO UPHOLD ARMIES CODE OF CONDUCT IN WAR . PAKISTAN HAS TO BE MADE AND PAID BY DESTRUCTION OF TRAINING CAMPS AND LIGHTING STRIKES ON ALL KNOWN LAUNCH PADS AND TERROR HAVENS . ARTILLARY STRIKES MUST MANDATORARLY STRIKE PAK POSTS FROM WHERE THE TERRORISTS COME .

Anonymous said...

Ghorcharrah Gabbar is right but partly so. Its a failure of our entire peacenik establishment, in which people like you Mr Shukla, seduced by track 2 jamborees play a sad role. Instead of being firm with terrorism and tackling the issue in the enemys territory itself using whatever means, are available, we sit in our camps ready for being attacked. High time the entire WKK crowd in India woke up. Instead of singing the peace dirge, smoke the war pipe, subconventional if necessary. And let some Generals heads roll. Easy for the fat cat GOCs to wax rhapsodical about bravery when they sit with high security.

Anonymous said...

this whole piece looks like a psy ops article meant to create doubt among the army and its hierarchy.

Anonymous said...

Modi was bragging before election that after becoming PM terror attack would not be tolerated. Is this a precursor for more big attacks like Mumbai 26/11. If India remains timid and docile with no response then sure it is going to be.

Anonymous said...

There are some Pakis or spying for Pakis amongst your commentators.

sudarshan said...

Dear Sir,Linking the two incidents viz unfortunate killing of two civilians and attack on Army post in Uri is absurd. The only common feature is Professional Incompetence.Checkpoints when established should be so sited that the approaching veh is forced to slow down and not bypassed. This was obviously not ensured. Opening fire without ascertaining that the occupants of the car were armed or not indicates jittreriness/ trigger-happiness!Fire could have been directed at the tyres instead of automatic fire . This incident has been a setback for the Army and embarrassment to the Govt. Again the incident of Uri reflects poorly on the Local Defence and Security of the post.The YO's blaming Commanders is illogical and deserves to be condemned.
Yours faithfully
S S Rawat

Anonymous said...

Shukla Jee is staying at Wellington in Tamilnadu thousands of miles away from Kashmir. Pl excuse him for what ever he writes. Freedom of speech you know.

Anonymous said...

In all probability it might be col shukla's account only