| The book cover |
Itanagar, June 6: Indian army officers who have served in the Northeast have had a special place in their hearts for the 17th century Ahom general Lachit Barphukan.
Now former army chief and incumbent Arunachal Pradesh governor Gen. (retd) J.J. Singh has put it in writing, giving the famous Ahom general “pride of place” in his soon-to-be-released autobiography, A Soldier’s General.
Singh told The Telegraph that the Northeast figures prominently in his 400-plus page memoir in English which will be released in Delhi on Saturday. The autobiography will also be translated into Assamese, which leading publishing houses here said was a first-of-its-kind initiative by any former service chief. Work on the Assamese version is being done by Anjan Sarma, who is attached to a Guwahati-based publishing house, and it should be out by the end of this year.
Asked what the people of Northeast could expect from his autobiography, being published by HarperCollins, Singh said, “It should be of interest to the Northeast with which I have had a sentimental attachment having started my career in Nagaland. For 13 years of my adult life I have served in Nagaland, Assam, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. I have reflected on the issues and challenges of the region in my book as I see them and the way forward. I have tried to offer suggestions on the issues I have dwelt on, international or national. The great Ahom general Lachit Barphukan, one of my idols, also figures prominently. I have touched upon insurgency and the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in the region. It is a personalised description of events, experiences and perceptions.”
Two leading publishing houses from Assam, Banalata and Lawyers Book Stall, said the book should be well received since it is a first-of-its kind initiative in Assamese.
Bhaskar Dutta Baruah of Lawyers Book Stall said many would look forward to the book as Singh was popular, familiar with the region and Assam was troubled like the rest of the region. “Since there are no books or memoirs by any former army chief in Assamese to the best of my knowledge, the book might be able to offer the army’s perspective to events that have taken place in the region. There will definitely be a buzz since Assam has an active army presence,” he added.
Pradyut Hazarika of Banalata said the book would definitely arouse curiosity but how it is received will depend on its contents and how well it is marketed. “We have seen that at least 30 per cent readers have switched from books to e-books. Still, it is a good move to get the memoir published in Assamese.”
Besides Assamese, the book is being simultaneously translated into Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali, Malayalam and French.
Singh, who became the 22nd army chief on January 31, 2005 and had an eventful tenure of two years and eight months, “went” into action with the 9 Maratha Light Infantry battalion against the Naga rebels, particularly in Tuensang district, from 1965-68. He also commanded the battalion in Tezu in Arunachal Pradesh.
The army is one of the three tiers of the Unified Command that plans and executes counter-insurgency operations in the state. It has earned both brickbats and bouquets for its role in counter-insurgency operations.
Singh said Barphukan, who had thwarted the Mughals in the 1671 Battle of Saraighat, has been one of his inspirations for his exemplary leadership, tactical brilliance and sacrifice.
Earlier, a former senior army officer, who missed becoming the chief, had a statue of Barphukan installed on the premises of National Defence Academy, Pune, when he was the governor of Assam. Lt Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha had also instituted a gold medal in Barphukan’s name for the cadet with best officer-like qualities.