Gen. HS Panag
When a video surfaced earlier this month from Kashmir of a local youth tied to an Army jeep, supposedly to prevent stonepelters from getting the better of the CRPF, Lt Gen Harcharanjit Singh Panag, PVSM, AVSM (R) took to Twitter to say that the image will forever haunt the Indian Army and the nation.
The man, now 68 years old, served the Army for 48 years, having joined the National Defence Academy in 1964. Speaking about his tweet, over the phone from Fatehgarh Sahib, he says, “When you are involved in a counter insurgency situation, you are battling against your own people — a section of whom are against you. Consequently, the methods that we use in war against an enemy cannot be used in an insurgency. You have to be people-friendly.” He points out that if the military alienates the people, they will choose to side with the terrorists instead.
Earlier this month, a video surfaced from Kashmir of a local youth tied to an Army jeep, supposedly to prevent stonepelters from getting the better of the CRPF
Discussing Kashmir specifically, he adds that use of over whelming force against agitationists has failed universally.
“The track record of the Indian Army has been good as we have always followed the rule of law. It’s an unenvious task, but using draconian methods against one’s own population is not right. What is the point of winning the territory if the hearts of people are not with you?,” he says, adding that it’s why when he came across the picture, he was compelled to tweet.
And while the assault by pseudo nationalists that followed wasn’t entirely unexpected — “social media after all follows no rules” — for Lt Gen Panag, the image needed to be brought to attention as he felt it was a defining image. Yet, Panag shrugs off the attacks, especially by singer Abhijeet — “U r a Pak supporter, wish you were kicked, beaten & humiliated on the streets of #Kashmir & then wd hv seen ur reaction. #Salute #IndianArmy.” It left him, he says, amused. “I know there are all kinds of people. Abhijeet is the same fellow who is on record about this country being sadela. He is 16 years younger [to me]. He was a bumbling teenager singing on stage when I was fighting the ’71 war.”
What these tweets did, however, he is glad to say, brought more attention to the issue. “If the trolls hadn’t responded, my tweet may have been lost. Because they did, it’s being picked up. The trolls actually lost the battle,” says Panag, who has served in Kashmir and was also a member of the Army tribunal after retiring from the service.
And, as far as Abhijeet is concerned — the man he called a brown shirt in reference to Hitler’s Nazi Party’s youth brigade, not knowing the “singer was so old” — he has been blocked. “He can rant. I don’t participate in such exchanges.”