A soldier forgotten

Date: 03/04/2021

A soldier forgotten

It is not surprising and yet unfortunate that the country has failed to mark, or even note, the birth centenary this month of a soldier who fought bravely until his capture in the 1962 India- China war, and was almost singularly responsible for explaining the political/military events of October and November that year which led to this Himalayan Blunder, incidentally the title of his seminal book.

As a Brigadier, John Dalvi said about his return to India from captivity: “We deplaned (at Dum Dum airport in Calcutta on 4 May 1963.) and were greeted with correct military protocol, tinged with a chill reserve. It was only later that I found out that we had to clear ourselves of the charge of being brainwashed ~ a strange charge from a Government which had itself been brainwashed into championing China’s cause for more than a decade.

Without a doubt, the prisoners had been declared outcasts. Apparently, we should have atoned for past national sins of omission and commission with our lives.” Indeed, it was the brainwashing that Prime Minister Nehru and Defence Minister Krishna Menon had inflicted first on themselves and then on their countrymen that was what substantially responsible for the 1962 debacle.

And perhaps Brigadier Dalvi’s greatest act of bravery ~ braver even than his gallant command of the doomed 7th Brigade – was to chronicle for future generations the events that led to the humiliation and to vindicate the reputation of the men he led. He was asked on his return from captivity to write a report for then Army chief, General J N Chaudhuri and the Defence Minister “to teach ourselves how not to hand over a brigade on a plate to the Chinese in future” and proceeded to do so.

But, as Dalvi narrated, he was not made aware of the fate of his report, nor was he asked to explain or discuss it perhaps because he had touched some sensitive nerves. To have then decided to pen down for public consumption an objective account of the events that preceded the 1962 conflict required immense bravery, especially as by then the Government had decided to place the Henderson-Brooks report under wraps (where it remains).

It is said that Brigadier Dalvi was offered the inducement of a promotion to put his pen away, but he refused to relent. No publisher would touch his manuscript in India, but he got it published in the United Kingdom. The book was initially banned in India, and only became available locally much later.

As Dalvi noted, “1962 was a National Failure of which every Indian is guilty. It was a failure in the Higher Direction of War, a failure of the Opposition, a failure of the General Staff (myself included); it was a failure of Responsible Public Opinion and the Press. For the Government of India, it was a Himalayan Blunder at all levels.”

As spokespersons of the ruling elite disgorge homilies on the Nehruvian dystopia that led to the tragedy of 1962, it is ironic they should forget the man who played a vital role in enlightening them and all of us.
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In Memory of My Father: Brig. John Dalvi

A heartwarming obituary written by Michael Dalvi, son of the iconic Brig. John Parashram Dalvi, the author of the landmark book, 'The Himalayan Blunder, on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary.

Michael Dalvi

3 Jul 2020

The man you see here in uniform, in which he took such great pride joy & honour, would have been 100 years of age today. It is my honour, privilege and pride to be his son. He is flanked by insignias of the Indian Army and his beloved Battalion, 4th {Rajput} Guards. Commissioned (Indian Military Academy, Dehradun) at age 21 he went straight off to do battle with the Japanese in Burma with his Regiment, 10/5 Baloch.

In 1962 he went off to do battle again. This time the Chinese, as Commander 7 Brigade then based in Twang, NEFA. Our collective energies are currently deeply absorbed in the Chinese challenge facing our nation. It's as good a time as ever, indeed imperative, that at this crucial & critical time, we honour and respect the memory of the bravest of the brave of our warriors who have selflessly done battle before in the service of our nation, and, learn from the hard lessons of history.

Never ever again, must a proud commander, of the finest fighting men in the world, have to go to a premature grave with the deaths of his men & officers on his conscience. Even if for no fault of his! That his troops, under-clothed, armed with obsolete weapons, under fed and woefully ill-equipped for mountain warfare fought to the bitter end is a tribute to the discipline, training, fortitude and indomitable spirit of the Indian Army.

They died with honour, often, to the last man and the last bullet and not before inflicting huge casualties on an enemy militarily and psychologically unprepared for such intrepidness! We must never forget that fact, sitting in the cozy comfort of our safe houses rendered secure by the daily sacrifice of our troops!

To quote Macaulay: "How can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?"

And I pray God that no man should have to witness his father's gradual but inexorable mental and physical deterioration & decline. From a conscience debilitating burdened, tormented, riddled with bitterness, anger, frustration helplessness and guilt for those who didn't make it back! This guilt eventually destroyed his soul.

It gnawed at the very core of his being from living each day with the memory of men of steel who followed blindly, into impossible situations, against unimaginable odds, and in many cases certain death, driven to great heights of valour only for the Izzat of their paltans, their army, and the honour and security of their country, and let the guilty, and their political successors contemplate, the great crime of sending brave men to do battle against AK47's with WW I obsolete .303 Lee Enfield bolt action rifles, and with not enough ammunition to fight a relentless enemy. Often resorting to hand to hand combat and using the weapons of fallen Chinese soldiers.

Whilst the guilty, sitting in their air conditioned offices in Delhi, ordered coffee percolators, standard lamps made from shells, and others civilian items to be produced in ordnance factories. These were criminals. Make no mistake about that. History has labelled them thus. For the sheer brazen and brutal heartlessness of their crimes of omissions and commissions against a simple, trusting, loyal & dedicated soldiery! I only hope those who currently control and conduct the destiny of our great country, and our unquestioning uniformed Bravehearts learn from the hindsight of history.

It's done & dusted sir. You are dead and gone ages ago but your army, that was your life, lives and fights on. RIP sir wherever you be, and, hopefully, till we meet again to clink pewter tankards of your favourite tipple; chilled to perfection.

(This obituary has been written by Michael Dalvi, son of late Brigadier John Parashram Dalvi)

3 April 2021.
THE COUNTRY HAS YET TO GET RID OF GANDHIMANIA despite disaster after disaster.