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Sensitive Issues in Armed Forces Units

“My own younger brother is across the border in the Pakistan Army to fight with me and this has quite upset me”

by Veteran, Dr (Col) Arvind Bhave

People in Armed Forces are always groomed with tough training and they have only one motive in their mind, and that is to maintain sovereignty of our country and also to protect our borders from any invasion by the enemy. The unit personnel are advised to keep aside such problems and the individual is sent on leave to solve such issues by himself.

As regard officers’, there is an unwritten law which prevents them from discussing, the politics, ladies and the religion in Officers’ messes because such topics often leads to hot discussions and at times may provoke somebody and do harm to his sentiments. However all said and done, sentimental issues do crop up at times and since they have a different dimension, they need to be dealt with harsh words or by punishing the individual to set an example for others, because such actions may have detrimental repercussions on the whole unit.

Hence initial efforts must be to pacify the individual because in such situations, the individual is so worked up that he is not bothered even to ruin his carrier and may even insult his superiors. During the 1965 war, our artillery unit had moved to the ‘conc’ area and we were to be deployed as per the strategic requirement. Since we were on an operational move, each one of us was armed with weapons for personal safety.

At that location at about 2230 hours, I heard somebody’s footsteps just outside my tent. So I immediately picked up my gun and asked in a loud voice as to anybody there outside. The person outside promptly replied, “Sir, I am Subhedar Moiuddin, can I come inside?” On hearing his voice, I asked him to come inside my tent and offered him my camp chair. I was quite surprised to see Subhedar Moiuddin at such odd hours. He was quite disturbed and looked perturbed and so I asked him “Sahab, what is the matter that has shaken you so much? Have you received some tragic news from home?”

He said, “No sir, everything is alright at home. But I came to know this evening that my own younger brother is across the border in the Pakistan Army to fight with me and this has quite upset me and now you tell me sir, how can I fight and kill my own brother? So I want to withdraw myself and I do not want to participate in any war move.”

Subhedar Moiuddin was normally a very happy-go-lucky person. The Jawans liked him as an instructor. He was a good sportsman and an ideal soldier. Our old man relied on him because any task given to him was always accomplished without posing any problems whatsoever. Subhedar Moiuddin told me that at the time of Partition in 1947, he and his brother whom he called Pappu had joined the army as Sepoys in the same regiment. At the time of Partition, as per the orders of the Viceroy, the erstwhile head of the country, this same Regiment was divided with all our stores, men and materials (which included our vehicles guns and ammunition too) because the newly formed country Pakistan had no army!

“It was a very painful affair to lose our relatives and friends but from the same unit some of our men and officers also willingly went to Pakistan to form their Army. I tried my level best to dissuade my brother Pappu but he was quite firm of his decision and today he is across the border with them in the same rank as a Subedar and ready to fight with me,” Moiuddin said. Since it was a sentimental issue, I initially kept quiet for some time and then thanked Subhedar Moiuddin for trusting me and to seek my advice.

Then I asked him, “’Sahab, if the Pakistan Army opens fire tomorrow and suppose both of us   are killed, then will it mean that Pappu has killed us because of personal enmity?” Moiuddin promptly said, “Sir why we should blame Pappu? He is fighting for his country.”  “Sahab you are absolutely correct!” I replied. Now suppose we open fire and unfortunately if Pappu gets killed, will it mean that you have killed him?”

Moiuddin said, “Sir, now I have understood and unnecessarily I was cursing myself and without understanding that it was a war between the two countries and not that we two brothers are fighting amongst ourselves.” I was happy that Subhedar Moiuddin understood the issue without much difficulty and I could make him understand that he should not blame himself  for his own brother being in the Pakistan Army because he has gone there by his own choice. Subhedar Moiuddin went happily from my tent. But before leaving my tent he told me that not to tell anyone that he had come to seek my advice. He wished me “Shabba Khair” and left my tent.

On the next day, I found Subhedar Moiuddin in his usual normal composure and participating in unit activities. Of course such incidences will not be heard in future because already seventy years have passed now since Independence. If the same issue was confronted by our old man and if he perhaps had taken a hurried decision and to disarm Subhedar Moiuddin as the first safety measure, that might have culminated into distrust in many other personnel of the unit and the discipline of the whole unit could have been affected. And in that situation, our unit might have been declared ‘unfit’ for war.

As the old man is always considered the father of the unit and he is responsible for the whole unit as such, what I intend to drive home is the fact that sentimental issues, when they crop up in any unit, they have to be dealt with not hastily but carefully with due consideration to maintain harmony and the discipline of the unit at all cost.

Author’s Email: arvind_bhave@yahoo.co.in