INDIRA GANDHI-25 YEARS AFTER THE ASSASSINATION OF THE SPIRIT OF AN INDIAN ARMY OFFICER
25 years ago, on October 31, 1984, Srimati. Indira Gandhi was brutally assassinated by her own bodyguards. The Nation has recently mourned her death and has also celebrated her 92nd Birth Anniversary. A year before her assassination, on September 18, 1983, Srimati. Indira Gandhi was unaware of the fact that a tiny flame got extinguished; a spirit got crushed at the Ministry of Defence Headquarters, South Block, the Secretariat Building in New Delhi. The Prime Minister’s office is also in the same building. I would like to share that story; the story about a young Medical Officer who joined the Army Medical Corps with a spirit to serve the Nation. The top bureaucrat of the Army Medical Corps chose to use his power and position to kill the spirit of this Medical Officer in broad daylight. The story begins and ends during the years Mrs. Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India. This story narrates events in the course of my life’s journey and it does not mean that it pertains to the past. These events belong to the life of the Nation. The entity called ‘NATION’ has a life and has an existence of its own. As long as this entity known to us as ‘INDIA’ exists, this story remains relevant and it cannot be buried as the remains of an individual’s past life. As long as I am alive, I would keep my memory alive and I will ask the Nation to read the pages from its own life.
The top bureaucrats in 1983 were not able to grasp any ethical considerations. A sense of objectivity got lost and only the sense of self-preservation characterized the actions of top ranking officials. Mrs. Indira Gandhi paid a very heavy price because of the trust she had placed in some of these career opportunists who had no real interest in serving the Nation.
THE SPIRIT OF INDIAN NATIONALISM:
On November 14, 1958, I was a student at Danavaipeta Municipal High School, Rajahmundry when we celebrated the Children’s Day. The School received a brand new Public Announcement System and I gave a very inspired and eloquent speech during the School Assembly expressing my love and a sense of attachment to Prime Minister Nehru. During 1962, Prime Minister Nehru visited Nizamabad District to inaugurate the irrigation project at Pochampad on the banks of River Godavari. Government Giriraj Arts College, Nizamabad declared a holiday to help the student community to attend the function. Myself, my father R. Suryanarayana Murthy who was then the Principal of that college, many of Staff Members and students converged at that venue to show our love and admiration for Prime Minister Nehru.
During 1962, in the wake of massive brutal attack by Communist China across the Himalayan frontier, I developed a desire to serve in the Indian Army which experienced a very humiliating defeat. I was a student at Government Giriraj Arts College, Nizamabad. From 1962 to 1965, I participated in the National Cadet Corps training, but I was not sure as to how I can to get into the Army Service.
I was a second year M.B.B.S.( First M.B.B.S. Part III ) student at Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was chosen as the third Prime Minister of India. She symbolizes the spirit of Indian Nationalism. She transcends the limitations imposed by deriving identity based upon region, religion, caste, and language. I was instantly attracted by the charisma of her personality which portrays my vision of National Unity.
I sent her a hand-written letter expressing my sense of pleasure for her appointment as the Prime Minister. She graciously sent me a reply. In the year 1967, I met her at her official residence in New Delhi along with a batch of student delegates attending a National Student Seminar on National Integration. This four-week long Seminar was sponsored by Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi, an International Youth Center.
National Integration represents the idea of people of all regions and religions coming together, to work together, and to participate in National Affairs as equals. During 1969, a team of Army Medical Corps Officers arrived at Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool to conduct interviews for selection of Final Year M.B.B.S. students for the grant of Short Service Regular Commission in the Indian Army Medical Corps. Myself, and another student by name Ahmad Wali Jan got selected in the interview but he opted out. I was granted the rank of Second Lieutenant. I made this deliberate choice to join the Indian Army Medical Corps to serve the Nation and to take part in National Affairs to the fullest extent that could be possible.
On 26 July 1970, I reported for duty at Officers Training School, Army Medical Corps Centre & School in Lucknow. I completed my medical training in the Military Hospital, Ambala Cantonment during 1971 and was fully ready for my role as a Medical Officer to provide medical care and support to our troops. Indeed, the opportunity to serve the Nation came true to my desire and my expectations.
SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE-OPERATION EAGLE 1971-LIBERATION WAR OF BANGLADESH-GALLANTRY AWARD:
During 1971, I joined the Special Frontier Force on deputation from the Indian Army. I was sent to work at Headquarters Establishment No.22 (Vikas Regiment) that operates under the supervision of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Secretariat. For that reason, I got an opportunity to know and to put into action Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s decisions in furtherance of her foreign policy initiatives. During the conduct of India-Pakistan War of 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi approved the military action in the Chittagong Hill Tracts which initiated the Liberation of Bangladesh from Pakistan’s military dictatorship.
THE SWEETEST MOMENT OF MY MILITARY SERVICE:
The Medical Directorate at the Indian Army Headquarters failed to process the citation that was dispatched by my South Column Unit which took part in the Chittagong Hill Tracts military operation. I was recommended the gallantry award of ‘VIR CHAKRA’. I am the only Officer of Special Frontier Force who has not received the Award for which the Unit submitted a citation. However, I enhanced the prestige of the Army Medical Corps. For the first time in the history of the Army Medical Corps I performed the duties of a Medical officer, a Nursing Assistant, and an Ambulance Assistant while medically evacuating critically wounded soldiers; marching in a remote, roadless, forest terrain for over forty miles and I maintained the patients in a stable condition throughout the difficult land journey. I was overjoyed by this uplifting experience. My patients survived their battlefield injuries. I narrated the story to the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) in an interview that was held in September 1972 at the Headquarters Ministry of Defence, New Delhi. I was granted Direct Permanent Commission in the Army Medical Corps just based upon the powerful story that I narrated to the DGAFMS.
THE PROUDEST MOMENT OF MY MILITARY CAREER:
“The Sentinel Hills that round us stand
Bear witness that we loved our Land;
Amidst shattered rocks and flaming Pine,
We fought and died on Namti Plain.
O’ Lohit gently by us glide,
Pale stars above us softly shine,
As we sleep here in Sun and rain.”( Poem composed by Bernard S Dougal, Deputy Commissioner )
During 1962, the Indian Army resisted the Chinese aggression and the men gave their lives defending Walong. During 1972, I had the good fortune to visit the War Memorial and it filled up my heart with a sense of pride. There is dignity and honour in fighting for the Nation and in resisting the enemy. I received the 25th Independence Anniversary Medal during the 25th year of my life’s journey and I received the Medal as a blessing. Pride is not defined by victory or defeat in the battle. I display PRIDE in resisting the enemy and in defending my territory; victory and defeat are shaped by forces beyond my control.
INDIA ENTERS THE NUCLEAR ERA:
I fully support India’s decision to test a nuclear device to defend our national security interests, and our territorial integrity. During 1979, while taking part in a military exercise, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the test site at Pokhran in Rajasthan.
THE UNHOLY BRAHMIN ALLIANCE IN PUNE: I WAS BACK STABBED AT ARMED FORCES MEDICAL COLLEGE , PUNE:
Major General B D P Rao was the Commandant at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), Pune while I attended the ‘Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course from December 1975 to April 1976. He literally back stabbed me by falsifying the performance score sheet and lied about the results of my performance in the Screening Examination. Group Captain Krishnamurthy, the Additional Professor of Medicine who acted as the Chief Examiner for the Screening Examination personally expressed his sense of utter remorse and he was shocked beyond belief that I was not allowed to continue my ‘Advanced Training in Paediatrics’ Course. In May 1976, I got most unceremoniously kicked out of the AFMC Pune and was posted out.
Group Captain Krishnamurthy was not only satisfied with my performance, but also he communicated the results of my performance to my paternal uncle (Dr. Rebbapragada. Anjaneyulu, M.D. Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, B.J. Medical College, and The Sassoon General Hospitals, Pune) who was also the Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Pune University. In my presence, as I was closely listening to the phone conversation, my uncle called Major General BDP Rao and questioned him about his decision to disqualify me from the Advanced Training Course in Paediatrics. The General made a statement about my performance over the phone and claimed that I failed in the written examination, practical examination, and the oral test. Group Captain Krishnamurthy, the Additional Professor of Medicine who had actually evaluated my performance in the written examination, and conducted my practical examination, had directly admitted to me that there was no justification to disqualify me in those areas where he was responsible for the evaluation work. I was hurt, but the wounds did not kill my spirit to continue in Service. I did not demand a Court of Inquiry to prove the guilt of Major General BDP Rao who belonged to my South Indian Brahmin community. I have very specific reasons to call him a ‘backstabber’. Major General B D P Rao’s daughter (Captain Uma Ramachandran) also attended the same Advanced Training Course in Paediatrics and she was present when Group Captain Krishnamurthy openly announced to the entire batch of AMC Officers and claimed that I had scored the highest marks in the Written part of the Screening Examination. Before this Screening Examination, while serving at the Military Hospital Wing of Headquarters Establishment No.22, I performed the duties of the Medical Specialist, and later also of the Surgical Specialist when these Specialist Officers availed their two months annual leave. When these Specialists proceed on casual leave, I used to provide cover at their respective departments. The Units where I served have always immensely valued my professional service and the appreciation was duly recorded in my Annual Confidential Reports. Prior to the Screening Examination, the Department of Medicine, AFMC conducted an Interim Test and I stood first in the entire batch of AMC Officers getting trained by the Department of Medicine.The results of this Interim Test were publicly announced in the class room by Major Kalipatnam Seshagiri Rao AMC, a Staff Member of the Department of Paediatrics. Captain Uma Ramachandran, was also present in the class room during this announcement. My Record of Service and performance did not help me and did not provide me with a chance to complete my Advanced Training in Pediatrics. General B.D.P.Rao did not believe in serving the Nation and was a mere career opportunist who got promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General . His departure from AFMC Pune gave me an opportunity to show and to prove my academic merit.
My failure in the Screening Examination and the disqualification in the Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course 76 is entered into my Record of Service and hence the information is private and is confidential. However, AFMC Pune chose to dishonour this rule of confidentiality and openly communicated my failure in the Screening Examination to The Registrar, University of Pune, Ganeshkhind, Pune-7 by sending him Letter No. 3410/Gen/76 dated 11 May 76. The Registrar, University of Pune has no right to this private and confidential information about my performance in any training course administered by the Indian Army. AFMC Pune acted in a reckless manner causing a breach of my privilege. I have not given permission to AFMC to disclose the information from my record of service. Hence, I demand and ask the Government of India, Ministry of Defence to remove the information that pertains to the Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course 1976 from my Record of Service. AFMC Pune must be suitably warned and be directed to avoid such violations in the future.
THE AWARD OF THE DIRECTOR GENERAL OF ARMED FORCES MEDICAL SERVICES SILVER MEDAL IN 1976:
I was posted to the First Armoured Division after my disqualification in ‘The Advanced Training in Paediatrics’ Course in April 1976. In June 1976, I again went back to AFMC Pune to attend the Medical Officers Junior Command Course (MOJC 67/76). Major General Daryao Singh was the Commandant at AFMC, Pune. He awarded Grade ‘A’ for my performance in this Course. Later, Lieutenant General R.S. Hoon, the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services invited me to come to Pune to receive the DGAFMS Silver Medal. I attended the awards function held at AFMC along with my wife and daughter. My name as a recipient of the DGAFMS Medal in 1976 is displayed both at AFMC, Pune and at AMC Centre and School in Lucknow.
THE POLITICAL ECLIPSE AND THE TRIUMPHANT RETURN
During my military service, Mrs. Indira Gandhi lost her political power for a period of three years from 1977 to 1980. From 1976 to December 1978 I served in the First Armoured Division under the command of Major General K S Sundarji and have known his personal qualities as a military Commander.
During December 1978, I was posted to Army Ordnance Corps Centre, Secunderabad at the end of my tenure at the First Armoured Division. I witnessed the tragic loss of Mrs. Padma Sundarji and had commented about it in a different blog post. While I served in the First Armoured Division, I tried again to attend ‘The Advanced Training in Paediatrics Course’.
Lieutenant General B.D.P. Rao, continued to delight himself by denying me the opportunity to improve my professional qualification. I filed a ‘Non-Statutory’ Complaint and it was rejected by the Chief of Army Staff based upon a recommendation given by the Director of Medical Services (Army) who had acted after consulting with the Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services about my Non-Statutory Complaint. I did not bring this problem to the attention of the Defence Minister. I silently endured this insulting and prejudicial conduct to keep my Spirit to serve the country alive.
TELUGU PEOPLE VALUE SELF-RESPECT AND DIGNITY:
I am not one of those NTR Fan Club members. Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao was an advocate of the Cultural Identity of the Telugu people. He demanded the upholding of self-respect by the Telugu people. I was amongst those people who voted in favour of the Telugu Desam Party which he founded. My single vote did not put N.T.R. into the seat of power. My vote only symbolized a desire to take part in national affairs while upholding the principle of self-respect and personal dignity. I was acutely aware of my own ill-treatment and I was deeply offended by the behaviour of the top official of the Army Medical Corps. My applications for study leave to improve my professional qualification were getting rejected without any reason.
A FLAME THAT GOT EXTINGUISHED AT SOUTH BLOCK, THE SECRETARIAT BUILDING, NEW DELHI:
On January 17, 1983, while serving as the Senior Regimental Medical Officer at Army Ordnance Corps Centre, Secunderabad, I submitted my application to Brigadier A M Bhattacharya, the Commandant of AOC Centre and sought his permission to relinquish my Permanent Regular Commission in the Army Medical Corps. At that time, Lieutenant General V.V.S. Pratap Rao was the Director General of the Armed Forces Medical Services. General Rao visited the Military Hospital, Secunderabad during the AMC Day Celebration. He openly assured all the AMC Officers that he would support all Officers who would seek to relinquish their Commission. He did not view the job of AMC Officers in terms of a patriotic duty. I was personally frustrated as he would not allow me to improve my professional qualification and made me ineligible to seek any future opportunity to serve as a specialist. On the basis of his public assurance and his attitude about rendering Service to the Nation, I decided to quit this hopeless struggle of serving without any self-respect or dignity. Meantime, the AOC Centre received a transfer order that directed me to serve as a Medical Officer in a Medical Battalion, a Unit located in Mizoram. People at the AOC Centre who know my Record of Service immediately recognized that the posting order was issued to specifically undermine my ability to seek advancement in the military career by denying an opportunity that may give substantial service experience. At its face value, the posting order intended to insult me as a person showing no concern for my length of service and experience. The Commandant, AOC Centre, Secunderabad refused to serve me that unfair and unjust posting order and he did not ask me to move to the new station. AOC Centre, Secunderabad simply refused to issue a ‘Movement Order’ and did not relieve me from my duties and responsibilities as the Senior Regimental Medical Officer. The Centre Commandant firmly insisted that the Medical Directorate must first decide on my application to leave army service. During 1983-84, Army Ordnance Corps Centre, Secunderabad was my bastion of support and the Officers at the Centre united behind me resisted the implementation of a transfer order which displayed all the characteristics of a foul play.
SERVICE WITH PRIDE AND HONOUR:
General V.V.S.Pratap Rao refused to give me the permission to relinquish my Permanent Regular Commission and started demanding that the AOC Centre must implement the posting order that was issued to transfer me. I decided to bring this issue to the attention of the Union Minister of State for Defence. Before I could get a chance to seek a formal interview with the Defence Minister, General Rao forwarded my application to the Defence Minister recommending to reject my request. The Ministry of Defence rejected my resignation and the AOC Centre was again asked to implement my posting order to that Medical Battalion. In an effort to uphold my personal dignity, and with help and support of my uncle ( Shri. Rebbapragada. Ramanand Rao, Industrial Consultant ), I contacted Shri. Kotla Vijaya Bhaskar Reddy who was then the Union Cabinet Minister for Shipping and Transport, Shri. Pendekanti Venkata Subbaiah who was then the Union Minister of State for Home & Parliamentary Affairs, and Shri. R. Prabhu who is the Member of Parliament (7th Lok Sabha Member during 1983). All of them supported my case. When the DGAFMS General Rao spoke to Shri. Pendekanti Venkata Subbaiah to seek a personal favor, the Minister in return demanded General. Rao to cancel the posting order that was issued. General Rao asked Lieutenant General Banerjee who was the Director of Medical Services (Army) during 1983 to cancel the posting order issued to me and at the same time he insisted that I should be reposted to the same Station in Mizoram to serve in a different capacity. The Director of Medical Services (Army) was not allowed to deal with my situation in any other manner. As per General Rao’s demand, I was then posted to the Border Roads Organisation Task Force ( CE Project Pushpak ) in Mizoram. AOC Centre, Secunderabad again refused to issue a ‘Movement Order’ in compliance with this new posting order. The Director of Medical Services (Army) openly expressed his sense of revulsion about this interference in his duties and responsibilities and he communicated his feelings to Brigadier A M Bhattacharya, the Centre Commandant. Then, I decided to travel to New Delhi and speak directly to the Defence Minister (Rajya Raksha Mantri) about the letter of resignation I submitted on January 17, 1983. Shri. Kamakhya Prasad Singh Deo was the Union Minister of State for Defence. Shri. Singh Deo’s younger brother was serving as the Adjutant at 125 Infantry Battalion (Territorial Army) located at Trimulgherry, Secunderabad. This Territorial Army Unit was attached to the Medical Inspection Room of Army Ordnance Corps Centre, Secunderabad. As the Medical Officer of this Territorial Army Unit I provided them medical support and Lieutenant Colonel Ranjit S Grewal, the Commanding Officer of the Unit was very pleased with my services. Shri. Singh Deo’s younger brother helped me to plan my visit to New Delhi.
THE ASSASSINATION OF THE ‘SPIRIT’ OF AN INDIAN ARMY MEDICAL CORPS OFFICER – DISCIPLINE WITH DIGNITY:
My personal interview with Shri. K P Singh Deo on September 18, 1983 was very frank and I made my case very clear. He did not suggest to me that I should continue to serve in the Army with a sense of patriotism. He did not say a word to justify the actions of General V.V.S. Pratap Rao. Prior to this interview on September 18, 1983, Shri Singh Deo specifically directed General V.V.S Pratap Rao to change the rules that make me ineligible to apply for study leave, or to undergo advanced training to qualify for specialist assignments. General Rao did not act upon the ruling in spite of very clear and specific instructions given by the Minister. General Rao kept that ruling as a secret and did not communicate the orders issued by the Defence Minister to the Director of Medical Services (Army). At the time of my personal interview, the Defence Minister was not aware of the fact that General Rao had deliberately concealed information that pertains to my application. General Rao apparently desired to keep both of us in darkness at the time of this interview. I went to the interview under the assumption that the Defence Minister had failed to act upon my application. Shri. Singh Deo met me under the assumption that he had already taken action to resolve my concerns about Study Leave and Specialist Appointments and my professional growth in the Army Medical Corps. The Defence Minister believed that I have other personal reasons for relinquishing the Commission. I did not state any personal reasons in my first application but I shared some of them in my second application dated September 17, 1983 and I emphasized the fact that I want to serve with a sense of pride and honour and uphold the principles of service discipline. The Minister graciously accepted my request and I was granted the permission to relinquish my Permanent Regular Commission. I was relieved of my duties on January 10, 1984 paving the way for my departure from India.
THE ASSASSINATION OF THE PRIME MINISTER:
Mrs. Indira Gandhi unfortunately trusted her top bureaucrats. I have known the personal qualities of Lieutenant General T S Oberoi who was serving as the General Officer Commanding- in – Chief at Headquarters Southern Command, Pune during 1983. General Oberoi had also served as the Inspector General of Special Frontier Force after successfully Commanding the troops during the India-Pakistan War of 1971 in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The Operation Blue Star involved the participation of the Special Frontier Force. General T S Oberoi had always deeply cared for the men under his Command. He would have executed that kind of difficult military mission with due care and concern for his men and also the civilians. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi failed to seek guidance from Lieutenant General T S Oberoi about the execution of Operation Blue Star. She did a mistake in not showing adequate trust and confidence in a senior Army Commander.
THE FLAME IS EXTINGUISHED – THE HEART HAS GIVEN PLACE TO LORD RAMA:
After leaving India in 1984, I did not get a chance to revisit the country. Now, I continue my life’s journey with a new spirit guided by the image of Lord Rama.
THE SPIRITS OF SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE:
Service Number: MS-8466 Captain, AMC/SSC & MR-03277K Major, AMC/DPC
Headquarters Establishment Number 22 C/O 56 APO(1971-74)
- Defining Indian Identity – the Brahman Caste Connection (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Operation Eagle – Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Operation Eagle – Registration of Public Grievance (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Operation Eagle – a Letter to Union Minister of State for Defence (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- The Battle Plan of Operation Eagle – Permission for Disclosure (bhavanajagat.wordpress.com)
- Spiritualism – the Past Is Never Dead (bhavanajagat.com)
- Spiritualism and Identity – the Conflict at Kurnool Medical College (bhavanajagat.com)
- Special Frontier Force-operation Eagle-gallantry Award (bhavanajagat.com)