The Army responds - 1

Much of the response has been negative to the article below, as in opposed to my POV, but then that is expected. Someone even said I was biased because I have not got my “dues” from the Army!

Anyhow, the following is part of a letter from a high-ranking officer, incidentally a name I am familiar with – I have left out the portion where he gives details about what else he has done, just so as to not reveal much, yet. Am also posting my reply…

- - -

Dear Ms Farzana Versey,

Since we don't know each other, let me start by informing you that one of my current jobs is media and image of the Army. Let me also apprise you…(list of his other activities).

I am afraid your article gives me a feeling that you have never met an army officer, nor have you a feel of how our men live. You haven't a feel either of our commitment levels, that sees us through the privations, in order that you may retain your freedom and dignity. Should you want to have a feel of what you are writing about before you put pen to paper, you are welcome to interact with me or my officers. It will surely get you on to uphoding the dignity of this organisation - the Army - that assuses you, your's.

With warm regards.
Yours Sincerely
(Rank) XYZ

- - -

Dear (Rank) XYZ:

Thank you for writing in and giving me your perspective. I do understand that from the other side what I have written may certainly not be palatable, and given your current assignment there would be no reason for you to even accept my version.

I understand that. Having done so, may I add that you have not denied any of the aspects I have brought up? They are based on facts that have been reported. Facts that cannot be ignored. You, being in the position you are, do have access to clarify or put forward your version. I was writing about a certain facet and unfortunately it does not make sense to me to try and balance things out by saying, “Oh, but they also go through privations.” That is a given, and the fact that I mentioned clothes meant for soldiers in high altitude areas being sold in the general market did convey that those soldiers were being denied their rightful due. That the ones committing the crime were their own is disappointing. The dignity of any organisation is to be respected, but not blindly.

To answer your other question: Yes, I have indeed met armymen as well as their families. It might be of some interest for you to know that I, an ordinary citizen, have been pursuing the case of the missing POWS in Pakistan for the last 15 years. There are other civilians and activists doing that. Perhaps you could help with this case, for I have not really heard any voices from the Army coming out openly and fighting for their colleagues, while their families have been doing so since 1971. It is never too late.

Whenever I want to get a feel of what I am writing, I depend largely on facts, my interactions, and form my own opinions. However, there may be occasion for me to need more information or another perspective, and for that I would be grateful to use your offer.

I should hope you take this letter in the spirit I have taken your criticism. On a lighter note: I do write about terrorism and I have never met a terrorist and I write about religion and never met god. The latter I am in no hurry to…

With best wishes,
Farzana Versey


  1. Cheeky oh so cheeky FV

  2. blog
    Army men are just high school dropouts with no dignity, no grace and no humanity left.
    They have no iq at all, they are trained hounds to feed themselves with human flesh and blood. They are dignified why?b/c they got the lisecne to kill humans and innocent civilians..
    They are graceful why?b/c they rape innocent women.....

  3. Dear FV,
    what do you do for a living. Have I commented on your paintings. No! then lets leave it at that. Have you realised that God and soldiers are remembered only in times of need. Lets not be ungrateful by posting such material. What would the nation do if all young people just get motivated by your writings and dont join the armed forces. Give it a thought. There are a still few good dedicated second third and even fourth generation men serving in the armed forces. Lets not belittle any profession especially one of the noblest and oldest ones. Lets not take freedom of speech to the limits.

  4. FV,

    I agree in toto. Raising emotional issues to counter facts is to alter the context of the debate.

    The Army might be doing a wonderful job but it has to learn to introspect and be self-critical about its shortcomings. Unfortunately, it ain't happening.

    You might take a look at similar issues raised by Pragmatic at INI.

  5. Dear Lady,

    1 I read your article and was surprised on lack of understanding of how armed forces function because of a few bad eggs which is there in every org and society including foreign armies.

    2 Next time you write another article disgracing Indian Army, consider following

    (a) Every time I went on leave from a field/ops/RR or for that matter, reached Guhati or jammu , I felt it was a different world, nobody like you was aware how we were serving in what conditions..

    ( b) A common man even my own brother were never aware of how a dead body gets stiff within seconds, how a man loses his limbs in seconds on a patrol when RPG blast through a vehicle body or how a full family in a village or a town is destroyed when their son, brother or husband ie an officer/soldier becomes a fatal or nonfatal cas.

    ( c) Infact at Jammu I am surprised that there is no security conscientious on seeing a package kept in the bus and passenger absconding till a bus blast takes place and then journalist like you curse security forces.

    ( d) Infact we shift TV channels fast to see Sanjay dutt smiling and shaking handshake with Jail warden as we feel watching a casket of dead officer on TV is boring.

    ( e) We also feel sympathetic for SANJAY Dutt but no feeling for that widow of a martyr soldier . The TV also does not waste time on them as there will be a loss in TV ratings. Why don’t you haul up TV channels for all this nonsense as breaking news for them is anything other than an officer or a Jawan ha sided, it is a routine liner for all to read and forget about it and enjoy the sas bahu serial.

    ( f) We also allow you to claim that you have been pursing POW s status, Don’t we know it is for media mileage, how many children you have adopted or widows cared for or Ex Serviceman looked after. Have you visited a leper Colony in NE Along where the army has adopted the whole village.

    ( g) We also allow you to rubbish our Services on a few bad eggs, but we don’t hear you claiming Film Industry is bad because of Underworld nexus links or Industrialist not paying taxes despite being photographed for richest Indian in the world etcccccc because then you will not be invited for page 2 parties.

    ( h) I think you must make visit to real working conditions of J& K /NE of Indian army where motivated youngsters and Jawans are living in pathetic conditions and fighting enemy so that you can party around, making paintings etc. Every ni at least a million jawans are on guard all over the country so that you can sleep. Every Ni a boy dies in Jungles of J&K so that your boy/ relative can play around safely.

    ( j) Now why do you crib on those who are leaving, it is not wrong as every man has a right to grow in life. If not here somewhere else. At least they have given best part of their youth to this country when you were living a secured life,

    2 Judge the services for what they are doing for your existence, not on a few incidents.
    regards brando

  6. Anon (m):

    Well...and I lived to tell the tale...


    I wouldn’t make such a sweeping statement…

    Ching chong:

    Self-examination is always tough, and in our society we just refuse any sort of criticism, mainly because we are an obsequious society. The whole subcontinent is.


    I found your comment most curious:

    You ask, “Have I commented on your paintings. No! then lets leave it at that.”

    What? My paintings do not impact on the nation, and in fact are open to comment and criticism, if you so desire. They are on public display as is my writing. It is rather facile to compare the two ‘situations’.

    “Have you realised that God and soldiers are remembered only in times of need. Lets not be ungrateful by posting such material.”

    I don’t know about god…from where I am people spend far too much time in places of worship and I have no clue what they need. As regards soldiers, it is the country and government policies that drive ‘our’ needs. The Indian Army should be critical of government policies, if at all, that puts them under pressure.

    “What would the nation do if all young people just get motivated by your writings and dont join the armed forces. Give it a thought. There are a still few good dedicated second third and even fourth generation men serving in the armed forces. Lets not belittle any profession especially one of the noblest and oldest ones. Lets not take freedom of speech to the limits.”

    Assuming that some young people do get motivated by what I have written, I do not for a moment imagine that will dissuade them from joining the army if they are doing so with even an iota of commitment to the Forces. Of course, there are young people who are serving and will continue to do so; some have family and are inspired by them; others by a desire to be part of one of the Forces.

    Instead of deriding me for taking freedom of speech to the limits, should we not be asking why the icons of the youth are not armymen today? (They were when we were young, incidentally.) I repeat what I wrote in the letter above: let us not respect anything blindly.

  7. With respect to all the comments:
    Don't you get amused when people totally miss the point?

    "I read your article and was surprised on lack of understanding of how armed forces function because of a few bad eggs which is there in every org and society including foreign armies"
    - Haha! I was waiting for someone to say that! I guess you would know why.

    "I do write about terrorism and I have never met a terrorist and I write about religion and never met god. The latter I am in no hurry to…"
    - Only FV!!!!!

  8. Dear FV,
    I really do not know who you are; but one thing is for sure....'critics are the biggest well wishers' (remember Karan's surmon to Duryodhana: Mahabharat). It shows that you are concerned and not indifferent to the Armed Forces.

    Yes! Judiciary and the Armed Forces have not evolved much since the 'British Raj'. With the 'appreciation' and 'criticism' from the masses and media, the Judiciary is trying to reform. Of course they have 'miles to go before they sleep.'

    Unfortunately the Armed Forces have not yet been able to shed the 'holy cow' image. A negative affect of this is that the Armed Forces are not open to the intervention of the masses and the media; the two potent weapons to trigger off reforms. This leaves most of the top brasses of the Armed Forces patting their own backs. What they do not realise is that they are viewing things through a rosy glass. Actually things may not be as rosy as it appears.

    Best Wishes

  9. SM:

    Sometimes I is amusing; often one wants to explain...

    Anonymous (ABC):

    Thank you for the positive thoughts. The isolation is a big problem with many noble organisations....I had once written about how the media hunts easy target like politicians, film stars and the underworld. We don't expect most of them to be nice and above-board anyway...

    I can only wish the best for the Forces and that will come with enlightenment, as it does for all individuals.


  10. Dear FV,

    1 It is so easy to crib that corruption is eating into the innards of every system, the bureaucracy's a shadow of what it once was, and the political class, for the most part, doesn't appear terribly interested in stemming the rot, but then how many of us vote for the right leadership or support a cause when it matters most.

    2 We all have to also see the big picture apart from identifying the root cause. The difference between you and me is learn to differentiate the good and bad of every system. Anyway your last post to Indian Army was polite and thanks for it. At least we have a common aim ie enlightenment for seeking good of the system and this country. We will remain in touch with positive thoughts on improving and not criticizing , do visit at times my blog http://honestfeelings-brando.blogspot.com


  11. Dear FV,
    I have read your article as also the comments with interest. I wonder if you have come across or read a book written by me and published in Mar 2006, "BETTER DEAD THAN DISABLED" pp131, Parity paperbacks, cost Rs 250. Besides talking of the trials and tribulations of a third generation Army officer it gives recommendations of how the next generation should not have to undergo the same. Being a decorated and war wounded officer with 80% disability for life my advise to all the commentators on the article including Mr Media I/C Gen-----. Look within, why is it that Generals who are selectedto that rank indulge in such "PRANKS" as you might call it. A few bad eggs acceptable but the whole consignement being fit to be put in the garbage needs looking into. So instead of defending a losing cause introspect and do serious mid course corrections. Not withstanding the privations suffered, "THEY ARE PART OF THE DEAL WHEN YOU JOINED, SO WHY CRIB & MOREOVER THIS IS A VOLUNTEER ARMED FORCES, NOBODY ASKED YOU TO JOIN. ITS PART OF THE GAME SO TAKE IT AS IT COMES. IF YOU CANNOT TAKE IT OPT OUT AS SO MANY ARE DOING" But please stop taking the moral high ground. It does not exist any more. We all know that famous dialouge from the old WAQT, "JIN KE GHAR SHISHE KE HOTE HAIN WOH DUSRON PAR PATHAR NAHI MARTE" Suggest get your act together and than scream from the roof tops that you are other than the daily scamster that has become a part of our daily news. As regards Mr Vivek Oberoi becoming a part of the TA any Indian can become a citizen soldier. Indeed the Delhi winner of Lead India Sanjiv Kaura is from 124 TA so what so great ms Fv. AS a last note for all, accept criticism and correct your shortcomings by deed and action rather than depend on rhetoric.

  12. Dear Farzana,

    It is after a long time I have read a literary potent article with
    commendable articulation. It is also after a long time I am reading
    something so superficial in facts and figures. It is unfortunately
    true that birds of a feather flock together and that may be the reason
    that you somehow bumped on to the company of a stupid Colonel Saab (if
    at all you had bumped onto) who took pride in shooting pigeon. I think
    not only are you far far away from reality but also myopic and single

    Your story (sorry article) reminds me of the parable of a few blinds
    trying to figure out the shape of an elephant. The blind holding the
    tail felt that the elephant is like a rope, the other holding the leg
    felt the elephant is like a tree trunk and so on and so forth.
    Individual whims, fantasies and opinion have always existed in society
    and your article can be rated as one of those. Fortunately your breed
    of ungracious and thankless citizens are very limited and equally
    fortunate part is that Indian Army is a tolerant and progressive
    organization with a very rich tradition of humility and patriotism. I
    am very grateful to Almighty to have blessed Farzana to have been born
    in India where she has the freedom of castigating and rebuking a
    potent and professional armed force and still is safe within the four
    walls of her apartment basking with pride the popularity (though
    shoddy) she has gained by targeting mute victims of freedom of speech.

    However as you mature later in your career in journalism it would be
    prudent to publish commentaries which are better researched and have
    some factual background. For, today most of the readers are more
    knowledgeable than the mushrooming part time and overnight authors.
    After all who is interested in language parade and garnishes of

    With regards,


  13. Lt Gen R P Agarwal21/10/2007, 12:39

    Here is the text of my letter to the editor published in Asian Age today, i.e. 21 Oct 07.

    Dear Sir,

    The pen is undoubtedly mightier than the sword. But might is not proved by denigrating articles based on isolated personal experiences and apparent biases, such as "In Arm's Way" by Farzana Versey (Asian Age 16 Oct 07).
    The absence of problems is Utopia – non-existent anywhere, including in the Indian Army. As it draws its rank and file from the society, the Army is not insulated from problems of the society at large. To say that there are instances of corruption, sexual harassment and so on in the Army is therefore no investigative journalism. But trashing an organisation with the credentials like that of the Indian Army, on the basis of a few aberrations, would be naïve to say the least. It would be demeaning to the thousands of non-aberrant people forming part of the same organisation, tirelessly facing privations so that citizens like the writer can enjoy the freedom to express her opinion at will. It would be sacrilege towards those who have laid down their lives in ensuring so.
    Yes, there have been cases of misdemeanour of different kinds in the Army. But does that make the Army "one of the most corrupt institutions in the country"? The writer would do well to collect factual data on corruption in various service organisations, and even the private sector, before going to public with opinions that tarnish the image of an organisation that the nation is justifiably proud of. Besides, she is apparently oblivious to the speed with which each manifestation of such aberrant behaviour is dealt with by the Army – a case in point is the Tehelka episode, where the only people punished so far are the Army officers involved. Furthermore, it is to its credit that the Army continues to do a remarkable job in each of its assigned roles, despite the shortcomings pointed out. For every "ketchup colonel" there are numerous commanding officers like the late Colonel Vasant, who laid down his life personally leading his men in combat recently. It is easy to sing praises about the Army's glorious past and current performance ad infinitum. But that is not required, as unlike the columnist, the citizens of our country realize and appreciate all that the Army stands for.
    As for the columnist's advice for the Army to 'stop glorifying the profession and treat it as another job', she needs to reflect that in the course of which other job is a person expected to lead or follow his comrades into situations that are likely to cause grievous bodily harm, or even death? It needs to be understood that the soldier does not brave all odds and even lay down his life if required for the few thousand rupees that he is paid. He does it for 'izzat' – his own, that of his 'paltan' or unit, and of the country. Our nation will live to rue the day if the Army stops glorifying the soldier's job and starts treating it like any other profession.

    Lt Gen (Retd) R P Agarwal, PVSM, VSM

  14. Lt Gen RP Agarwal21/10/2007, 12:41

    Am posting a response to my letter to the editor

    My dear General,
    I was pained to go thro' your letter in The Asian Age.
    Things have come to such a pass in India.
    I have also sent a rejoinder to the paper, as follows:

    After reading General R.P. Agarwal's letter in your columns (Oct. 21) I ploughed your archives to get at the impugned article "In arm's way" by your correspondent Farzana Versey which has provoked the ire of the distinguished General .

    Pardon my becoming personal; I have been a 'civilian' all through my professional career but I was privileged to serve in a leading Defence undertaking in Bangalore for two decades when I had the opportunity to have had dealings with all the three wings of India's defence forces at various levels. I can say with all the emphasis at my command that the comments made by your correspondent about the Indian Army are casual, irreflective; and not worthy of the high journalistic traditions your esteemed paper boasts of.

    From my experience as a lay reader, I wish to add that for every piece of diligent and fair reporting there is a piece of trash which merely panders to the morbid tastes of a sensation-avid public. The challenges posed to the 'credibility factor' must be addressed by the editorial staff before any report is actually published

    Indian journalism should not allow itself to be faulted for its failure to manifest scepticism and independent spirit which are the core values of journalists. The instinct to jump into print ought to be constrained by the responsibility to check facts. There will always be bad and motivated informants and correspondents too.

    Yours truly,

    Kangayam R. Rangaswamy

    607 Reeve Drive, Waunakee, WI 53597, USA
    Phone# 608 849 7285

    I am not not quite sure whether my letter will be published but I thought I had to do my job and leave it at that.

    Lt Gen RP Agarwal


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.