India is often likened to an elephant; slow to rise and lumbering in its gait. A little known fact about elephants is that they reach a certain momentum, and when they do, it is impossible to stop them. They rampage, they break, and they destroy and flatten jungles.
Winds of ill fortune are blowing across Kashmir. It had to happen some day. Gently, without undue ceremony, Kashmir has started slipping back into the nineties. The slide is not gentle, but the momentum is visible only to those who know what signs to look for. The insiders speak in whispers. They say that they see ominous signs of “those dark days”. Perhaps they speak of the nineties.
In the mid-nineties, the Rashtriya Rifles was still growing teeth, still developing that fearsome reputation of possessing supernatural hunting skills. RR’s history is interesting. Army Headquarters was pushing units to send men on deputation to Rashtriya Rifles, in the Kashmir Valley. Now, the role of RR and how it could benefit 17 Kumaon was not clear to a young officer who, much against his will, had been appointed Officiating Adjutant. The year was 1995 and the unit was in Tibri Cantt, Gurdaspur. But I knew that I had to “defend & protect” my best men.
I knew what was expected of me. And so when Brigade Headquarters said that there were three vacancies for RR in 17 Kumaon, I sent the worst I had. I sent men with a history of coming back late from leave, gross indiscipline and borderline violence. There were many such clueless Officiating Adjutants, like me, in the Indian Army then, I guess. And there were hard-core professionals who held on to good troops. Any Adjutant would.
The earliest entries into RR were such men. They were the Indian Army’s “Dirty Dozen”. And the best officers the Indian Army could find led these troops. The cocktail was explosive.