Editor’s Note: The best way to counter a man’s arguments is to attack the man’s character – this is an age-old propaganda tool that those on the ‘left’ have mastered. For example, if someone’s questions are troubling you, paint that someone as “troll” and live happily ever after.
This is what is being attempted with Major Gaurav Arya, whose outspoken views about Kashmir and other issues is not going down well with a certain section of the commentariat. Read this interview of him to understand him better and you will know why he is not liked. The best counter they could think of was of character assassination; paint Major Gaurav Arya as an unscrupulous liar, or as a simpleton who falls for internet hoaxes at best.
A leftist website recently published an article that had “Major Gaurav Arya circulates a fake image…” as the tile. The article was clear attempt of maligning the character and reputation of the army veteran by taking his tweet out of context, and by making him ‘guilty by association’ by putting him in the same bracket as some others who surely were misusing the image, which incidentally was not a “fake image”.
This is the tweet that was used to defame him:
— Major Gaurav Arya (@majorgauravarya) June 14, 2017
Major Gaurav Arya wrote to the website to present his point of view, but the website didn’t care to respond or carry his side of the story. Perhaps that hints at the intentions and objectives of the website. OpIndia.com was launched to provide spaces to voices that are actively supressed and denied by the mainstream media and their cheerleaders. Hence, we are carrying the response of Major Gaurav Arya.
The article/response by Major Arya follows:
THE SILENT VOICE
Agitations and movements revolve around figures, romance and imagery. That is the nature of agitations and movements. Every movement has a figure or an image that is burned into public memory, never to be erased.
Think Syria humanitarian crisis. There are millions of images that jolted the collective conscience of the human race, but none so savagely as the image of Aylan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, in September 2015.
Whenever the next wave of pro-democracy protests hit China, the iconic image of the then unknown Chinese man holding shopping bags and standing defiantly in the path of an advancing tank, will be remembered.
Closer home, whenever there is an agitation against corruption, iconic images of Anna Hazare will be pulled out and flashed.
In each humanitarian crisis, you will see Aylan Kurdi. In every pro-democracy Chinese protest you will see images of the Chinese man standing in front of a tank. Every anti-corruption demonstration in India will see the face of Anna Hazare. These images will be seen even decades later. Such is the nature of movements and agitations everywhere. They weave and meander. They do not die. What was relevant a century earlier will remain relevant today and in the future.
These are not fake images. These images are the most powerful reminders that a movement lived and continues to live its life.
For me, the most powerful image of the Gorkhaland agitation will be of the late Col. Rai, wearing a white shirt, medals proudly pinned to his chest and blood flowing freely from a wound, all over his face and white uniform. A proud veteran walking on a road, surrounded by the local police, bleeding but still walking tall.
You may agree with the Gorkhaland agitation. You may disagree vehemently. I, for one, have no sides to take and no stakes to nurture. The only thing I have in common with Col. Rai is that both of us wore the uniform. It’s a very powerful bond, albeit difficult to explain to someone who has not had the privilege.
Did I know Col. Rai? No, I did not. I have never met him or spoken to him or even seen him from a distance. I don’t even know anyone who knew him. Neither did I know the veterans who had assembled at India Gate to mourn Lt. Umar Fayaz. And mostly, those veterans who gathered there did not know young Umar.
When I tweeted to Mamata Banerjee about treating Gurkhas with respect, I added that she had seen peaceful Gurkhas and she was fortunate. By this I directly implied three things. One, that I have seen Gurkhas in combat. Two, she was fortunate that the agitation had not got out of hand, because history is witness that once drawn in anger, a Gurkha will not put the khukri back in the scabbard without drawing blood. And three, she was dealing with veterans.
In the Gurkha community, veterans are venerated. The profession of arms is seen as the noblest of all professions. Gurkhas are natural warriors, insanely tough and they are just not afraid. Sounds familiar? Yes, these are the same people Sam Bahadur (Field Marshall Manekshaw) spoke about.
How do you deal with such a people? How do you get the agitators to go back home? It is simple. I know because I have operated with Gurkhas. Speak to them with respect and honour and they will die for you.
Limbu, Thapa, Rai, Gurung, Chhetri, Tamang, Thami, Bhujel…you will meet each type of Gurkha. Speak to the clan elders constantly and consistently and this will diffuse the situation. You will find that most of them have served in the Indian Army. Ask them their full names, and you will hear honors and awards suffixed; Vir Chakra, Sena Medal, Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, AVSM, PVSM, and VSM…the list will be never ending. Yet, strangely, they are also gentle people.
I attached the photo of Col. Rai as a personal reminder of the most iconic image of the movement. And then AltNews.in wrote an article, which had the headline “Major Gaurav Arya circulates a fake image as evidence of lathi charge by West Bengal Police”.
There was a severe reaction on social media. I normally don’t respond to such news. I get enough of my daily dose of love from Pakistan and Kashmir every morning. I am inured to such news. But when Ankit Sharma sent me a message and said he did not like what was written, I reluctantly started the process of responding. Why? Because I owe my presence on social media to two people; Sonali Singh and Ankit Sharma. They trained and guided me when I knew nothing about social media. I was just a writer whom soldiers read. They made this entire thing, what you see around you, possible.
The statement “Major Gaurav Arya circulates fake image” is itself a fake statement because the image is not fake. It’s a true image. The picture is of Col. Rai. When you say “fake image”, you normally mean photo shopped, airbrushed etc. But this image was neither.
The next point of contention was that while the image was of possibly 2008, I used it to embellish an argument which was unfolding in 2017. Again, this is wrong because unless resolved, agitations are timeless. History traces the original demand for Gorkhaland to almost a century back, to 1907 if I am not mistaken. A referendum was submitted to the Minto-Morley Reforms Committee. It was also raised in the Constituent Assembly of India. It was revived in the early eighties (dates not known) by Subhash Ghisingh, a veteran. The demand for Gorkhaland technically predates West Bengal, as we know it in its current form and shape.
My intent of tweeting to Mamata Banerjee was simple, as can be made out from my tweet – treat Gurkhas with respect and honour. The problem will become easier to resolve.
Gurkhas tell me that over 1500 people have been killed so far, in this agitation. I don’t know if this is the truth. I have not verified these figures. I do not know if these are government figures. But yes, to be sure, people have been killed.
I am not blaming Mamata Banerjee for what happened in 2008, simply because she was not in power. She cannot be blamed. But then we must not forget that when we deal with governments and institutions, people become secondary. It is not important who was in power in 2008. If I am tweeting about a problem in 2017, I will have to address it to Mamata Banerjee. There is no point in tweeting to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.
My point is simple. The photo of Col. Rai bleeding over his medals is timeless. To insinuate that the Tweet is fake because Col. Rai was hurt in 2008 and I am Tweeting in 2017 using that image is splitting hair. I was tweeting, not making a legal argument in the Supreme Court of India. Contexts are important.
To me, this iconic image of a bleeding Colonel with medals, being accosted by the police encapsulated the issue perfectly. Yes, if I had used an image from another agitation and then Tweeted, you would have been justified in calling it fake. Kashmiri separatists regularly photo-shop images from Syria and “create” mass graves in Kashmir overnight, out of thin air. That is fake.
If Anna Hazare lands up tomorrow at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi for protesting, and TV studios play images from his 2011 protests, will you call them fake images? And if Anna Hazare protests today, would he petition to the current government or the one in 2011?
I don’t support or oppose the creation of Gorkhaland. Honestly, I don’t think it’s any of my business. But yes, you must all join me and other ex-servicemen in raising your voice when veterans are humiliated, be it Darjeeling or Jantar Mantar.
And by the way, Anna Hazare is also a veteran. He fought in the 1965 war against Pakistan in Khem Karan Sector. In the same war, just 8 kilometers to the north, was another soldier who fought to the death. He stopped a number of Pakistani tanks in their tracks; before he was martyred. His name was CQMH Abdul Hamid, PVC.
It will do us well to look holistically at an issue. To cherry pick would be to do disservice to people in general and veterans in particular.
To my mind, the news was how Gurkha veterans were being manhandled in Darjeeling at present, and how Mamata Banerjee must treat Gurkhas with honour and respect. Unfortunately, everyone ignored that and suddenly I became the news.
An unnecessary and synthetic controversy was created out of thin air, and the veteran’s cause was pushed to the background.
The Score: Rumormongers – 1. Veterans – 0.
Major Gaurav Arya (Veteran)
17 Kumaon Regiment
Editorial team of OpIndia.com