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Second Kargil-tainted soldier joins truth cry

Chandigarh, June 8: Brigadier Surinder Singh, who was sacked for negligence, and another Kargil-tainted soldier today joined hands to seek a fresh probe against then army chief General V.P. Malik and other commanders for ignoring their warnings and allowing critical posts to fall into enemy hands.

Singh, who was dismissed for allegedly failing to detect intrusion by Pakistani troops in Kargil in 1999, and Major Manish Bhatnagar released a seven-page letter written by their lawyer to defence minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Copies of the letter have been sent to the Prime Minister, the President, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces, CPM leader Harkishen Singh Surjeet and Union ministers Kapil Sibal and Suresh Pachauri among others.

Singh and Bhatnagar questioned the terms of reference of the Subramanyam Committee, which went into the circumstances leading to the intrusion.

“We want to redeem our honour. We were made scapegoats. The fault lay with the senior officers who did not act on our warnings,” the brigadier said.

“I have won gallantry awards. I have been wounded twice in war. A soldier goes to war to die so that he can do his bit for the nation. The nation must know the truth. The guilty must be produced before the people,” he added, with tears in his eyes.

Bhatnagar, who had so far turned down Singh’s offer to go public after the revelation of an internal army report that the government’s delay in taking decisive action had cost the lives of many Indian soldiers, said he had first intimated the higher authorities about the intrusions in January-February 1999. “It was not the shepherds but my daily station report that mentioned the intrusions,” he said.

A general court martial had charged Bhatnagar with “disobeying command” and “improperly” stating that he and his troops were unfit for attack operations in the Yaldor-Batalik sector during the conflict. He was acquitted of the charge of disobeying command as his immediate commander Brigadier Devinder Singh denied giving him any such command. While other officers had been promoted, Bhatnagar said Brigadier Devinder “is still a brigadier”. The second charge, he added, was frivolous.

“One is left with strong apprehension(s) that the terms of reference (of the Subramanyam Committee) were formulated with (the) purpose and design by the then government. It was to avoid scrutiny and responsibility of its (NDA government’s) role and also to bail out the then senior commanders like the chief of army staff and others,” the letter says.

“The said officer (Bhatnagar) had first initiated a situation report about the action of Pakistan inflicting casualties of five jawans of the Ladakh Scouts serving under him on 26th January, 1999 …. Even the situation report made by the officer having cited a bunker and enemy clearing snow on 9th February, 1999, was ignored.

“Though the officer did his job, action has been taken against him to silence him so that the government and senior commanders could be saved of their responsibility and their role in ignoring these early warnings. There cannot be (a) more urgent need for a probe than in regard to Kargil,” the letter adds.

General Malik, who led the operations during the conflict, was not available for comment.

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