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Sacked officer seeks fresh Kargil review

Chandigarh, June 7: Sacked brigadier Surinder Singh has called the report of the Subhramanyam Committee on the Kargil conflict a “farce” and demanded a fresh review.

Singh, relieved of his command of the 121 (Independent) Infantry Brigade at the height of the Kargil war for negligence in duty, said the committee should be headed by a serving or retired judge and assisted by an army general. His comments come in the backdrop of the conflict returning to the political centrestage after a new government has taken charge.

Describing the Subhramanyam Committee’s report a “face-saving effort” by the previous NDA government, he said: “The committee has not included the fourth hearing I had with it where I have detailed the sequence of events till my removal from the sector. The report is one-sided and aims at protecting those who allowed the situation to get out of hand.”

The army terminated Singh’s service following a report by Lt Gen. A.R.K Reddy (then chief of staff, Northern Command) on the ground that he had not ensured effective patrolling and failed to detect the intrusions in the sector falling directly under his command.

Singh has contested the action against him in court. “The first time I briefed the Director General of Military Operations (.C. Vij, now the army chief) on August 8, 1998. How can anyone claim that I failed in detecting the intrusions'” he asked.

Shortly before hostilities had peaked in May and June 1999, George Fernandes had claimed it was a minor intrusion that would be cleared in 48 hours. The war eventually dragged on for about 50 days.

The brigadier has decided to write to defence minister Pranab Mukherjee and seek a fresh probe into the failures that allowed Pakistan troops and militants backed by them to intrude deep inside Indian territory.

“I was told that satellite imagery was not possible when I was in possession of them,” he said in an interview to The Telegraph.

As the commander of 121 Infantry Brigade, a post to which he was appointed in June 1998, Singh said he had apprised everyone, “including the chief of the army staff, about the enhanced threat perception in the Kargil sector”.

“I am yet to know what happened,” he said.

The brigadier, who is hard of hearing in his right ear due to the constant shelling his brigade had to bear, said his assessment was not taken seriously and “I was termed an alarmist”. Despite documented evidence of his briefings to even the then army chief (General V.P. Malik) when the intrusions took place, he said he was “made a scapegoat and deprived of command”.

Singh alleged the army chief had made several attempts to buy his silence. After being called to Delhi by Malik, he was refused an audience for six days, the disgruntled officer said.

Brigadier Singh’s superiors had rated him an excellent officer until he began to raise questions about their handling of the Kargil crisis. For instance, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division (the formation to which the 121 brigade was assigned), Major General V.S. Budhwar comments in his confidential report of July 8, 1999: “He (Brigadier Singh) has displayed professional resolve in executing op (operational) tasks. He followed professional advice and has instituted measures to minimise damage to own assets in the bde (brigade) sect (sector) due to enemy fire. On discovery of the armed intrusion by Pakistan into unheld areas of the bde sector, he acted swiftly, blunted the designs of the enemy by containing the intrusion and set the stage for further operations.”

Senior Western Command officers at Chandimandir admitted that there were “high-ranking” failures during the Kargil conflict. “It sends shivers down our spine to think what would have happened had we not been able to cleanse the peaks of the Pakistani intruders'” an officer said.

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