Friday, March 21, 2008

Brazen Lies

Defence correspondents who were taken to Pokhran to witness a slice of Exercise Brazen Chariots were lied to. Two Army havildars and a gunner were killed when the lower barrel of their 120mm mortar exploded during a range portion of the exercise. It happened just kilometres from where the correspondents stood at about 2pm on March 19.

But instead of informing the press at least that the incident had taken place, the Army systematically covered up the incident. It is a gross violation of professional conduct to hide such an incident. Yet, what the Army's well-oiled publicity machinery did was just oversee bullsh!t, obtuse reports on an exercise nobody really understood. As one correspondent who I spoke to said, the Army had the duty to inform people about the incident. "They insulted the honour of those jawans who were killed by not making an announcement about the incident to the public," he said.

What makes my blood boil even more are the Army's reasons for concealing facts. There were too many foreign dignitaries, and the Army did not want to "rock the boat" of an otherwise well-executed exercise. They thought it was better to let it slide for now. Let all these journalists write about the exercise. They'll get to know about our three dead jawans in the next few days. Why screw up coverage of the exercise by revealing something like this. That was the thought process behind what happened.

The news, incidentally, flashed first on Headlines Today only last evening -- over 24 hours after the incident first took place. I provided a brief phone-in after speaking to Maj Gen Vijay Narula, the ADG Public Information at Army HQ. After the flash of course, everyone else called in to get the facts. All of us had it a day too late. There wasn't even a customary press release informing the country that three of its honourable Army soldiers had died in a dreadful accident in the name of better defence preparedness. They just had a regular crap press release about the stupid exercise. Not one goddamned line about the deceased or the accident. No names. They were de-humanised by the infuriating off-the-record Army version that "they were all Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBORs)".

Army PRO Colonel SK Sakhuja, who was on the trip to Pokhran was contacted yesterday. He had this to say. "I am no longer the Army PRO, as I have relinquished my position. So I do not have any information." When I apprised him that Maj Gen Narula had confirmed the facts to me, this was his response: "Ok, so he has told you. Then it's alright."

I can imagine constraints stopping the Army from announcing deaths in operations, or in sensitive areas. But an exercise in peacetime? Truly, truly shameful. The Army chief should find out how this happened and severely reprimand those who decided on such deceit. According to one journalist, who did a report on his paper's front page today, it was the Army chief himself who ordered that the news be suppressed. What a shame, if that's true.

Rest in peace, Havildar SK Bagh, Havildar Mangu Singh and Gunner Ram Mehar.


Anonymous said...

absolutely disgusting. good piece shiv.

OldSailor said...

your one line"they were all Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBORs)" speaks out every thing. Army is yet to civilize.

Mihir said...

"they were all Personnel Below Officer Rank (PBORs)".

"Dehumanised" is the right term.


Anonymous said...

whats the big deal? grow up - all armies do this. if you media types were mature enough to report it sensibly, the army would be open. instead they know the junk you guys will write - check "brazen lies" for instance, taking the focus away from a historic c4isr integrated exercise to tuttutting about these accidental deaths.

check how many died in peacetime deployment in parakram.

and the army is a dangerous profession .. ask the marines and tank guys about peacetime goes on. you journos just need some stuff to vent your spleen on.

at the end of the day, these 3 guys who passed away (RIP) will be taken care of by their regiments, and their families helped.

your anger would appear less hypocritical if you were more concerned about their actual fates rather than the fact you missed out on a juicy scoop or whatever since the army denied it to you.

Anonymous said...

so army is corrupt, inhuman...what's unexpected ? the people in the army are from the same general society. so it won't be vastly different... look elsewhere while i indulge in kerosine pilferage.

sniperz11 said...

Oh cmon... now you're just being hypocritical and selfish. As anon said above, you're just pissed that you were kept in the dark and not given a juicy opportunity to pour salt into the wounds.

The Jawans died. Unfortunate. Yes. Tragic, yes. But this is an exercise, and accidents do happen... did u want the army machinery to stop the whole exercise just to inform u guys that there was an accident and provide real time information.

Did u even stop to think that perhaps the Jawan's families had to be notified first, or that the Army might have been more busy trying to save their lives or figure out what the hell went wrong? Did it occur to you that the reason they didnt give names was because the families hadnt been informed yet. As far as i can think, the people in charge would have been more worried in trying to figure out what went wrong and in ensuring the safety of the dignitaries and you press-wallahs by making sure that nothing else went wrong. Of course, what else can we expect from a bunch of dolts who think that an accidental cookoff is a case of blue-on-blue.

And FYI, I agree with the Army's logic of not derailing the exercise by informing this... its not "breaking news". This is war with live weaponry - accidents happen. Get over it. There are procedures have have to be followed - informing the families and CO for instance. I'm sure you guys would get your kicks by having the families learn about their loved ones deaths from your channel, wouldn't it.

P.S. A mortar has a single barrel. Apparently, the round cooked off and burst the barrel.

Anonymous said...

Sniper accident one understands. Coverup difficult to understand. Shiv why dont u do some digging around on the number of casualties of t72 tank gun bursts. It appears all are Peacetime - t72 never seen a war. And the loss of lives due to barrel bursts is more than the total loss of life of entire armd corps in all the wars put together india fought. Now it appears a t90 gun also burst in ba...a and is covered up so that the large qty purchases are not interrupted(due to vested interests in such poor selection and not due to poor soldiers). Is it right to put everything as a occupational hazards and as accidents while soldiers continue to loose lives

Anonymous said...

you kids and aroor seriously need to grow up. the army is an incredibly dangerous profession where the slightest mistake can cost lives. in this case, a cookoff could occur because of a variety of reasons. the round could have been improperly armed, the mortar tube was overheated, the crew could have been lax in round safety - but all you are hollering about is that the army didnt make a brouhaha over the soldiers deaths. pls grow up and understand, death in the army can occur anytime, stand at a range and if the range saftey officer isnt around and some jawan/officer screws up, you are in danger. loading rounds into tanks - shoot, if the autoloader crimps off the base plate and propellant is all over the tank, then what will you do?
bottomline - blaming the army for not tomtomming deaths is stupid. no two ways about it. what the army is meant for, is to kill. pure and simple. they are killers by profession and hence undertake activities which are by their very nature hazardous. dont live in a fools paradise thinking everything is peaches and cream in this world, and everyone should show you civvie media types deference. why should they?

Anonymous said...

Dont be emotional. You have not answered the basic question. Do you know not a single death has happened due to barrel bursts in M1 tanks, Leopards, Challengers till date. But in India we keep buying "killers" and increase "peacetime" martyrs.
You may need an exclusive India gate to inscribe the names of lost their life not in war but because of bad equipments choice. Thats the question one need to answer. everyone is answerable now a days.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect to the martyred soldiers (may their souls rest in peace) I wish to state that the army is not duty bound to declare the death of the three soldiers immediately it happened to the press. There are various procedures which need to be followed. The family of the lost soldiers need to be informed, their CO/regiment needs to be informed and steps need to be taken to ensure the safety of others present. Secondly a police report needs to be made so that investigations could establish the cause of death (in peacetime). Informing the press is one of the least priority at that moment.

I truly feel saddened by their deaths but the armed forces (all three) is a dangerous profession and death caused by accidents is but one of the occupational hazards.

What I, as part of the general public would like to read that the families of the departed soldiers have been taken care of and if the army has supported the families in their hour of need. Have you bothered to find this out. You have spoken to maybe 2/3 army personnel about the loss of the soldiers and the press being not informed, have you bothered to ask after their families? Have 'you' bothered to find out how their families are faring?

What you are trying to insinuate is that the army has tried to hush up the matter and attempt to take the moral high ground by claiming "Brazen Lies" Unfortunately, even you have failed to really appreciate the demise of the soldiers and your complete writeup is nothing but anti army. Please have a conscience.

You have written a larger write up on the armies failure at PR which is not their priority and all you have devoted to the three dead soldiers is one line at the end where their names are mentioned.

On the other hand I do appreciate all the information your blog provides but do some soul searching before you write such "Brazen Lies". Thank you. Clay

Anonymous said...

I have been a regular visitor to livefist blog and pragmatic's blog.It has been "blow hot blow cold' blogging and commenting as far as Armed Forces are concerned,particularly with regards to Army news.I have been fence sitting all through.
There has always been a feeling that media ignores 'value' news but latches on to some bits and pieces of inputs which can be published as 'scandalous and sensational'.
I,sitting as far, from the scene of reporting of 'Ex-Brazen Chariots'feel that news outflow or media briefings have followed logical coverage of a major National military event.Yes,perhaps,the spokes person could have mentioned about the tragic 'Range' accident at the end of the briefing.In case his brief warranted the disemination of the tragic news at a later time,it is perfectly justified and warranted no adverse comments from fellow bloggers.But whoever said "they were all PBOR" is regretable.
Excercises in field, though in peace time, are warlike activities and action must go on as per 'standing orders for war' and there are no two ways to this line of thought.

Anonymous said...

Dont be emotional. You have not answered the basic question. Do you know not a single death has happened due to barrel bursts in M1 tanks, Leopards, Challengers till date. But in India we keep buying "killers" and increase "peacetime" martyrs.
You may need an exclusive India gate to inscribe the names of lost their life not in war but because of bad equipments choice. Thats the question one need to answer. everyone is answerable now a days.

this is the kind of stuff that puts one off, and furthermore, the kid writing the above has no clue of the reality!

son, do us a favor and spend some time with our peers in the US and Europe. Ask NATO tankers about accidents at Graefenwohr and at the firing ranges in the continental'll have umpteen stories of misfires, barrel bursts and training mishaps. why, the US has lost tank crew to reasons which the indian army hasnt. does that make their equipment worse?

understand this, no system is perfect, and with indias constraints and operational hazards, we take correspondingly more risk as well. remember this, and understand it. its not a perfect world out there. we do the best we can, with what we have.

the barrel bursts of the t series tanks didnt cause casualties anywhere on the scale of what you are implying, the barrel fyi is outside the tank, the part that extends to the breech within didnt burst.

the casualties were due to improper ammo, which brewed up within the tank. the barrel case was different and solved with oem assistance. shit happens, and if you think it doesnt happen with western equipment, i point you to the jalashewa incident. even the ammo issue was resolved after putting a foot to OFBs butt.

so stop with this hysterical it onlee happens in india crap. it happens everywhere. and people deal with it.

Anonymous said...

Army is systematically killing Arjun Tank. This is the same Army PR machinery which is working and you carried it on Indian Express as "Arjun Tanked" whith some army man commenting on it.

Why don't you do a piece on it?

Russian tanks are nothing but death traps.

Shiv (not Aroor) said...

Most of the comments are not related to the post at all. Army is dangerous, accidents happen, soldiers die, propaganda takes over, etc...
Every one knowsit.
It is when an army disrespects its fallen soldiers, at the behest of the Army Chief, that is when things go wrong. Many allege that Shiv is angry because he didn't get a scoop. One doesn't know. But does that justify the army dismissing them as three PBOR next day. If this is not a coverup, then what is?
These three fools pooped a few generals' showoff party for a few foreigners. How could they? That's the problem.

Shiv, well said and keep it up. This is a democratic nation with a military, not a military with a nation.

Anonymous said...

oh for crying out loud, if the army guy is asked immediately who has died, will he have the names on beck and call? he'll say PBOR. when two officers were killed in kashmir, the army pros remark was we have lost two officers, further details awaited. so according to geniuses like you, that was a conspiracy hatched by the nefarious AHQ to malign these peoples names.
you chaps just look for a reason to caterwaul and assume that you have the moral high ground to comment on every other organization and service. whether it be drdo or the army, aroor knows best and his chamchas support him. grow up kids, and see the real world. collect some brass on the test range, and a grenade might go off taking your face and fingers off - oh darn, thats a conspiracy as well. and its all the armys fault, that the 15th grenade from an AGL was improperly fused and caused this.

Anonymous said...

Btw, Shiv Aroor wasn't the first journo to learn about the casualties in BC. The info was available to just a couple of journalists, who were keeping their eyes and ears open, at the BC's Grand Stand itself.
Though one of them tried to get it confirmed, the Army men responsible for providing info, denied anything of this sort happened. But who said these army men were duty bound to give the info. They are actually appointed and to suppress such damaging info from getting into the next day's newspapers. And that's what they did. There is no justification in crying foul over the news suppression. It is good that someone did bring it out, though it was a day late.

Amit said...

Gentlemen! request hold your anger for Indian Army and redirect it to the 'cause ' of 'concern'.

Firstly, being from the forces & being a part of said excercise being discussed here - please allow me to inform your kind selves that....... in a live fire combat exercise - casualties do take place world over. It was indeed unfortunate that the crew of the 120mm Mortar laid down their lives in the Line of Duty on the afternoon of 19/03. It is sheer coincidence that an Officer did not suffer casualty - the crews are always under constant supervision. Further, the Indian Army, like any outher miliary/ non-military organisation is not duty bound to pass info openly - there are procedures which must be followed. When in todays world the masses are QUIET even after being well aware of the excesses of the Mantris, why blame the poor Sentries!! I'll leave the argument at that for your wisdom to conclude........

Secondly, the term PBOR is the official term used to address the Ranks of Indian Army and is laid vide instructions of relevent competent authorities of the Govt. machinery....... request do not degrade the honour of our Men in Olive Greens by your own assumptions.

Thirdly, military accidents are a part of our profession(I speak for the men & officers alike - grant me that much - men from three generations of my family have served this country and rendered full colored service in combat with honour & dignity) , do not judge us by our failures but gauge our depth and our strenght by the countless little successes we gain in CI in the North and the Nort East, without a wink - unflnching devotion to duty and glory unto death - thats what drives us in these strange times when instead of the masters you find faults with the serfs.

Blame the high offices in Delhi who are insensitive to the needs of our soldiers, who care to hoots how would a man who goes home 2 months in a year - provide for the education of his children, take care of his domestic duties, run his household , look after his land and give a decent life to his family - with the peanuts that they serve!! WAKE UP - PEOPLE IN DELHI!! - That's the REAL CAUSE OF ANGER AND DISGUST.

Shiv Aroor said...

amit: privileged to have you on the blog, and especially so that you took the time out to enunciate your thoughts. all your points are well taken. but i don't think you've fully understood what my points raised were - 1. it is apparent that the information was willfully suppressed so that coverage of the exercise would not be unhindered. 2. preparations for the exercise in question - what about the disagreement btween Lt Gen Thamburaj and the COAS? 3. Journalists inquired about the rumoured accident and were categorically told that nothing had happened, so therefore, lies too.

trust me when i say that the country at large, and a few of us specifically, know and understand the sacrifices that the armed forces make, having spent time with them and seen them function in all their glory. and you're right, the high offices of delhi are steeped in apathy -- something i personally attempt to point out in every story i do (today, my story on Headlines Today is on artillery modernisation as the Congress government's political spitoon). Believe me, a lot of us understand these things, in fact, see them first hand, hear the unfeeling stupidity of the mantris on practically a daily basis. the latest example - the pay commission. of course there are generals and others in uniform who together bring disgrace upon the services with the recent spate of unforgivable corruption. the reason corruption and other such acts are looked upon with more anguish in the services than in civilian life, is because we have collectively come to expect only the best from the services. contrarily, corruption among civilian babus is commonplace. brazen chariots was a fiasco in every respect. it served no purpose. and it's only result was three dead men. let's not mix issues to blur the truth.

Amit said...

Well.....Shiv, I do understand your point........ but then it doesn't mean that what i said did not hold merit!!

You can not write off the hard work of 35,000 men in uniform as FIASCO - because you feel so...... The Excercise was well received by all quarters of Military the World over!! These three casualties do not reflect poorly on the conduct of warfare tactics on the part of Indian Army in any way, whatsoever.

How much are you aware about the preparations/ checks/ etc undertaken to ensure crew and weapon safety??!! but ... we play with live fire - its like playing with a death wish and some times death wins!!

Individuals may be corrupt - the organisation can not be blamed for it. Individual aspirations and poor integrity of a few, are handicaps,prevalent in all organisations.

I guess, its high time that Indian Media showed more maturity - instead of making masala of news, its time for a more professional, responsible, mature, balanced and a Pro-Nation approach - of course not at the cost of fundamental rights.

Nobody mocks the deaths of our HEROS more than our own media. Nobody does more harm our image and honour than our own media!!

I speak with enough experience not only in the North and the North East but also the power corridors of Delhi(also had the privilege to be the Aide to one of the Governors in the North East).

I fail to understand that who gives you the right to know every thing instantly?!! There are sensitivities attached to issues beyond you. The fact that the three brave men died can not be hidden - it would be documented, procedures and processes are functioning at respective places, the men will get their due - as Soldiers from the Army - not as masala ingredients of a news story.

I have a question for you - request analyze - When a UG/ Militant/ Infiltrator dies, you cry hoarse on human rights but when a soldier dies you are nowhere even around to report. Doesn't a Soldier have human rights?!! Or is he just an item for snippet columns of news papers "Jawan Killed".

If your intention is for the cause of the Soldier then I am for it but not at the cost of defaming the Indian Army.

The Army like any other organisation is a true representation of Society - request apply the same moral yard stick acceptable in Society for Army as well - why discriminate to find faults. And as for Society -may I remind you that the MEN are not joining Indian Army any more!!

Teach goods morals at home and send your kids to the Army - it'll help you to avoid being supercritical of the finest fighting force of the World - we FIGHT TO WIN - at all costs, even if it is our lives.

PS: Appreciate your article in Headlines Today.

Anoop said...


Well said. the problem with reporters like aroor is that they have become accustomed to seeking dirt and even where there is none, they will create it! take the issue of a disagreement b/w thamburaj and kapoor - as if all discussions have to be done without debate. mind you, if there was no debate, aroor would have written about kapoor beign authoritarian! i too am deeply disgusted with this media, which constantly seeks to embellish any and every event and portray it as a picture of an inhuman army which these selfless journalists bravely expose.

Anonymous said...

and anoop, morons like you will continue to be apologists for the low and dirty, wrapped in a bullshit flag called "propriety". the day we all start listening to the rationale of an armyman regarding army wrongdoing, that's the day we all head to he hills and hope for deliverance.

Amit said...

Thanks Anoop! for Mr Anonymous - as a man in uniform at least I have the courage to give my name to my words...... but I guess your zipper are at the wrong end of trousers... afterall...its not your fault.

....coming from people who take pride in spitting on roads and public places, think that its their royal privilege to pee on road sides, mercilessly decimate the streets and roads with filth and garbage overflowing from their homes.... who are self styled moral pundits of the civilized world this side of Suez canal..... your comments are indeed as low as your morals. CONGRATULATIONS!!... for I wonder what would have happend to the high sales of all the firms who made deodourants and room freshners if the world was devoid of jokers like you!!

As for your opinion of armymen - let me grant you that Pakis will give you a spare hole and the Chinese would pluck your cherry the moments these 'armymen' did what you are best at - Stink like a lump of used tissue from hell!

...hope you get deliverance soon...