An army of 1.4 million, which is known for its selfless attitude, service to the nation and valour of its soldiers–Indian Army, is one of the most respected establishments in India. It has a very decorous past, but every knight has a chink in his armour. A Military intelligence officer, Lt Col Dharamvir, was arrested unceremoniously for illegal possession of pistols and grenades, last year. The fact that this officer has been part of a special team which interrogated Ajmal Kasab, and that he was the whistle-blower of certain custodial deaths in North Eastern India, has brought up some muck to the surface.
Lt Col Dharamvir is a para commando, serving in Military intelligence unit (MI), whose team contributed to Operation Vijay by capturing the crucial Bajrang post, during the Kargil War. Add to it, that he was part of Operation Pawan in Sri Lanka, Operation Rhino and orchid in India’s north East. With so much experience under his belt, it’s no surprise he was part of the special team that interrogated Ajmal Kasab, the terrorist captured during the 26/11 attack on Mumbai city. Lt Col Dharamvir is a well decorated officer, who was also awarded for saving 2 civilians from a perilous 20 feet deep drain, filled with toxic gases. 3 days after the incident, the officer was fighting for his own life in ICU.
After rummaging through his achievements, it is flabbergasting to know that the same officer is now facing trial for illegal possession of weapons, that include pistols and grenades. Ostensibly, he had also been housing an insurgent who belonged to a terror outfit. The officer will now be tried on eight cases of indiscipline and violations of arms act.
If the flying cinders of rumours are to believed then it is his being a whistle-blower on the custodial deaths of few in North Eastern India, which occurred in 2010, that has landed him in the quagmire. Apparently, he was serving in NE when a botched up operation by a particular Military intelligence unit, ended up in the killing of few civilians, in which atleast one person was found to be linked to a terrorist group. It is one of the very few ignominious cases in Indian Army’s history.
Most of the officers linked to the case have at some point of time in their career been in a predicament, after the incident
- Col G Sree Kumar– He was the Commanding officer of III CISU, which carried out the botched up intel operation. Col Sree Kumar was also accused of extorting money and favours from a supplier in NE, in 2010. The officer, apparently, had his hands in the cookie jar when certain misinformation was circulated vis-à-vis defence minister’s phone tapping. He was later censured by General V.K.Singh.
- Capt. Rubeena Kaur– She’s the officer who carried out the intel operation. She now faces sacking.
- General Dalbir Singh– He was the commander of III corps when the unit under him executed the intel operation. A discipline and vigilance ban was imposed on him by General V.K.Singh (the COAS then). The ban was lifted by Gen V.K.Singh’s successor– Gen Bikram Singh, and Dalbir Singh went on to become the Chief of Army staff (COAS) in 2014.
- General V.K.Singh– He took strict action against all the officers involved in the poorly executed operation. But ended up in a quandary immediately after it. He was accused of getting phone of defence ministry officials tapped, by an intelligence unit, TSD, which reported to him directly. Adding to his woes was the age row, which led to his retirement in 2012.
Lt Col Dharamvir, is one of the last strings that is attached to the case. It is his repeated appeals in Manipur High court against the officers involved in the botched up operation that led higher echelons of Army believe that his intent was to tarnish the establishment’s image– definitely not something that the Indian Army takes lightly.
Adding to the officer’s woes is the fact that he is a cancer patient. Lt Col Dharamvir has now requested Col Hunny Bakshi to fight his case in the court, as Col Bakshi himself is an ex-military intelligence officer, who had faced a similar predicament and saved himself from being dishonoured. His intel unit, TSD (technical support division), had earned the ire of UPA government despite the support it received from the then Chief of Army staff, Gen VK Singh.
Intelligence agencies, they say, are the first line of defence of a country, whilst discipline is the essence of the organisation and structure of an Armed Force. With its moral compass well aligned, Indian Army has to now walk on a tight rope where it should not compromise on its ethos or whittle down the expectations of its soldiers.