Generals Rawat & Dyer

Print edition : July 21, 2017

General Bipin Rawat. Photo: V.V. Krishnan

Brig. General Dyer.

IT is stupid to compare General Bipin Rawat with Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, who committed crimes in cold blood at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar on April 13, 1919. But it would be wholly wrong to ignore the disturbing similarities between the doctrines propounded by them. It is one thing for a colonial power like Britain, and recently George W. Bush of the United States, to boast about “shock and awe”. It is another for the Chief of Staff of the great Indian Army, which enjoys respect, and serves a democracy governed by the rule of law, to embrace that thesis. A comparison is necessary.

This is what Gen. Bipin Rawat told PTI on May 27, 2017: “Adversaries must be afraid of you.” Fine, but he did not stop there; “and at the same time, your people must be afraid of you”. Have you ever heard of an army chief of a democracy speaking in these terms? They are more appropriate for an army of occupation directed by a colonial power. The explanation did not dilute Doctrine. “We are a friendly Army, but when we are called to restore law and order, people have to be afraid of us.”

Compare this with Gen. Dyer’s assertions in his evidence before the Official Hunter Committee into the “disorders”.

He was asked: “I take it that your idea in taking that action was to strike terror?”

He replied: “Call it what you like. I was going to punish them. My idea from the military point of view was to make a wide impression.”

“To strike terror not only in the city of Amritsar, but throughout the Punjab?”

“Yes, throughout the Punjab. I wanted to reduce their morale; the morale of the rebels.”

The minority report remarked: “The action of General Dyer as well as some acts of the martial law administration, to be referred to hereafter, have been compared to the acts of ‘frightfulness’ committed by some of the German military commanders during the war in Belgium and France.”

The British government asked Dyer to resign. While doing so, it said: “The principle… when military action in support of the civil authority is required, may be broadly stated as using the minimum force necessary.”

It was Sir Chimanlal Setalvad’s brilliant cross-examination which exposed Dyer. India has yet to do justice to this patriot.

A.G. Noorani