The second EML of the semester took place yesterday, August 11, and was delivered by Major General (Dr.) G. D. Bakshi at CLT starting at 6 pm, to a densely packed audience. Titled “Rise of the Indian Army and National Security”, the talk was originally scheduled for an hour, but exceeded the time limit by nearly an hour.
Major General G. D. Bakshi is a retired Indian army officer from the J&K Rifles who has commanded several counter-terrorist operations in J&K and has been awarded Vishisht Seva Medal and Sena Medal for his distinguished service. He is well-versed in Information and Psychological Warfare. After his retirement, he did his PhD in strategic studies and has authored several research papers and books on the same.
The lecture revolved around multiple topics including the origins of India, the Indian army and our evolving military tactics. Gen. Bakshi explained the concept of RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) and how it has changed war techniques from the Mauryan era to Independent India. He brought out the role of intellectuals in each RMA and called for IIT students to become the agents of change.
Before discussing the events at the lecture, we publish below a few excerpts from the talk under some of the prominent themes in the lecture (paraphrased but without altering the statements made).
Excerpts from the talk
Evolving military tactics
There were three RMAs: Mauryan, Mughal and British. Mauryans used bare mounted cavalry and war-elephants to shock and awe the enemy. They also invented information and psychological warfare which led to the withdrawal of the Greek invasion. Mughals brought in saddled horsemen and artillery which made the noise sensitive elephants stamp on their own army. The British introduced synchronised artillery which could fire 1000 shots per minute and bring down cavalry.
Concept of India, need for unity and self-reliance
The concept of India should be attributed to the Mauryan empire, when Chandragupta Maurya conquered the disrupted local states after the withdrawal of the Greek invasion. The popular opinion that the British empire united India is mumbo-jumbo. The British failed to divide us based on caste. Ironically speaking, caste-based politics and its resultant after effects are still prevalent in the nation.
Indian citizens are urged to stay united and start believing in their capabilities. In the past, we have depended on defence acquisitions from superpowers. With FDI, the opportunities for indigenous manufacturing will be more lucrative. The students from deemed universities like IITs should grab this opportunity instead of working with NASA or companies in the Silicon Valley.
The claims that we got our independence solely by non-violent means are inaccurate. We forget to acknowledge and respect the martyrdom of about 26,000 INA soldiers who laid down their lives for their country. No war memorial has been constructed for them, no pensions were granted to those who survived. The mutiny, initiated in the ranks of the Royal Indian Navy around February 1946 spread to the Royal Indian Air Force and the Indian Army which played a key role in the nationwide struggle for independence.
The British transferred the power to their chamchas after leaving. The Indian IB were still reporting the movements of demobilised INA officials to MI5 after 1947. Was it independence in its entirety?
We got real independence in 2014.
(The last statement seemed to refer to Indian riddance of an inferiority complex developed due to the British. Surprisingly enough, Gen. Bakshi claimed that it was the first time that our leaders were speaking in Hindi. He also emphasized that it was the army that was responsible for Indian independence and seemed to mock/make light of the non-violence movement.)
Since independence, India and Pakistan have fought 4 wars. In 1971, Indira Gandhi was perturbed by the 6 million refugees from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) significantly affecting the economy. She asked the then Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army Sam Manekshaw to take immediate action in a Cabinet meeting (which happened in March). Sam Manekshaw resisted, and advised her to wait till November-December so that they could avoid the swelling rivers in Bangladesh and naturally prevent Chinese incursion through snowed passes. His advice led to the unconditional surrender of the Pakistan Army.
The Indian leadership should not be afraid of any threats pertaining to nuclear warfare from Pakistan as India is far advanced in firepower. So much so that we can “vaporize their houses and render their farmlands infertile for the upcoming 700 years.” Considering that the population of India, unlike Pakistan, is widely distributed, an attack on our nation won’t be as effective. If Delhi is attacked, people will migrate to Chennai (this was said jokingly).
On the J&K issue
A brief summary of recent events in Kashmir to provide context for the excerpt that follows:
The 2016 unrest in Kashmir refers to a series of violent protests in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley which started with the killing of Burhan Wani, a militant commander of the Kashmir-based Hizbul Mujahideen by Indian security forces. After his killing, anti-India protests began in all 10 districts of the Kashmir Valley and protesters defied curfew with attacks on security forces and public properties. Mobile services were suspended by the government and Jammu and Kashmir. Police and Indian para-military forces used pellet guns, tear gas shells, rubber bullets and at times, live ammunition on the protesters, resulting in the death of one policeman and more than 50 protesters while over 1,300 residents of Kashmir were injured. This also led to debates on the appropriateness of the military using pellet guns to deal with protests, as reports of scores of people being permanently blinded by these guns, including many minors and children on the way to school, surfaced. Debates on whether the Indian citizens in Kashmir (i.e. Kashmiris) should have access to basic human rights and dignity, including the freedom to choose where to live and a freedom from constant military supervision, are also ongoing.
The current generation should break Pakistan further, into four pieces, to bring peace. After failed attempts of war and terrorism, Pakistan is now instigating anti-India sentiments in J&K which has led to the recent conflict in the sensitive pockets of the state. Pakistan can’t advocate human rights after their atrocities in East Pakistan.
A Short Summary of the Lecture Proceedings
A few J&K students were furious over Gen. Bakshi’s statements over the recent conflicts in Kashmir and argued calmly that the recent casualties in Kashmir could not be justified. Another voice from the audience asked them to get out and join Pakistan. Dr. Bakshi was open to have a discussion with the Kashmiri students. Once the decorum was re-established, one of the J&K students was handed the mic. He and Dr. Bakshi had a healthy dialogue. The speaker explained further using a district-wise map of J&K that 7% of J&K population demanded to either join Pakistan or claim independence.
Standing his ground, the J&K students’ spokesperson said that they didn’t want either. They simply demanded honor, dignity and basic human rights. They requested a decrease in the army deployment because of the dropping militancy. They questioned the deployment of the army in the central regions of J&K rather than only securing the borders. They said that no one in the audience can imagine the sufferings during the 33-day long curfew. Dr. Bakshi claimed that the casualties had been reduced post the 2010 conflict, to which the student replied that 67 was still a significant number. Dr. Bakshi had himself served in Kashmir during his tenure and he tried to reassure the students that the Indian Government was trying its best to reduce the casualties and end the conflict at the earliest.
However, he failed to convince the J&K students who chose to leave the hall at that point.
After almost two hours of standing at the podium for his lecture and the J&K debate, Gen. Bakshi was requested to sit down and answer a few questions. Abhinav Surya got the mic first and commented that he found the lecture to be warmongering, glorifying brutality and encouraging enmity amongst fellow humans. He didn’t wait for the speaker’s reply and walked out. To another question of how serious the plot against India is, he asked us to read the book titled Breaking India which explains the worldwide attempt in disrupting India’s integrity. In his concluding remarks and replying to the warmongering comment, Dr. Bakshi quoted Bhagwad Gita that it’s better to die in our own dharma than another’s.
General Bakshi is a man well known for his pro-military views, which arise from decades of experience both in Kashmir and in the Kargil War. On the other hand, the experiences and opinions of the Kashmiri students are not to be written off as they are equally valid, and the Kashmiri movement for freedom and the fact that thousands of citizens of our own country have been attacked by our own army is not to be treated as a triumph either. Though such events and speakers inevitably fall prey to controversies, the only way forward is to engage in a two-way conversation, and this involves both respecting and listening to the other person seriously and emphatically. Ultimately, freedom of thought and expression is the key to a healthy discussion during lectures and events, as long as they don’t turn violent or abusive. We hope that events that involve a strong clash of ideologies and opinions can still foster an atmosphere of dialogue, discussion and respect.