I have been thinking about writing on this topic ever since longtime, It was after the beheading of the India soldier of Rajputana Regiment by Pakistan Army in collusion with the Jihadist elements that made me relook at the scenario. The incident of January 8 in Mendhar area of Jammu and Kashmir, kind of brought the memories of Kargil war 1999. It was however reported that last year too, two Kumao regiment soldiers of Indian army were beheaded in same manner, but the news was subdued of their death or specifically of their beheading.
The situation of Kargil in 1999, a time when I just entered into my teens was not fully documented or reported, it was only on internet that I was able to find complete information about the scenario. A young 22 year old army captain Saurab Kali of 4 Jat regiment deployed on his first mission, fresh out of military academy along with his 4 other fellow soldiers were captured by Pakistani army and Jihadist elements in 1999 who had infiltrated into the India territory of Kargil, Kashmir to capture vital Land mass (their operation was much in lines with Indian operation in which Indian had captured siachen Glacier in 1984, this is the view that comes out from Pakistani media).
Torture and execution:
Anyhow, the torture he and his fellow soldiers went through was evident from the mutilation of bodies which were received. Captain Kalia and his men were in captivity for over twenty-two (May 15, 1999 – June 7, 1999) days, their bodies were handed over by Pakistan Army on June 9, 1999. The postmortem revealed that the Pakistan army had tortured them by burning their bodies with cigarettes, piercing ear-drums with hot rods, puncturing eyes before removing them, breaking most of the teeth and bones, fractures of the skull, cutting the lips, chipping of nose, chopping off limbs and private organs of these soldiers besides inflicting all sorts of physical and mental tortures and finally shooting them dead, as evidenced by the bullet wound to the temple. The postmortem report also confirmed that injuries were inflicted ante-mortem (before death).
When the same situation came again in Jan 2013, it just got me thinking. I wondered how could someone do such a dastardly act, the main question in my mind was “what motivates” such people.The guy who did that mutilation was a soldier of Pakistan army, but is yet to be identified. Certain section in India went gaga about what NOT to do in such situations which included an actor (a profiteer and an ideological whore, I presume you have to be later in order to be former) and few journalists with his ideological swinging. Most of the “self-proclaimed” liberal in both sides of the country always are found quoting that, we share same gene pool infact we are pretty much the same ethnic stock. Then why would one do such a thing?
Upon going through such thoughts and discussing with my fellow mates, the answer I got was that it is not got to do with Pakistan army but rather with the idea of Islamic supremacy/ Salafism/ Wahhabism or a desire for nationalistic supremacy of Pakistan. Such scenario were a common sight during Mughal Raj and Pakistan or should I say Pakistani Army establishment has a hangover of the past (they take deep pride in their forefathers’ so called “ruling” of India, even though more south Asian Muslims reside in India than in Pakistan and many in large numbers serve in Indian army forces and Intelligence agencies.)
Still the news was disturbing and brought back the stories of two famous executions in similar style during Mughal Raj, one was of Sambhaji, eldest son of Shivaji (first Maratha Ruler and a Hindu) and the second one was of Sardar Banda Singh Bahadur, a Sikh disciple of Guru Gobind Singh (10th Sikh guru). However, I would also like to mention Dhulla Bhatti, a Muslim Rajput (RobinHood of Punjab in 16th century) who was killed in the same scenario as William Wallace of Scotland whose story was immortalized in the Hollywood movie, Braveheart.
Sambhaji: 2nd Maratha King:
He was the eldest son of Shivaji, founder of Maratha Empire who laid the seeds of Marathi nationalism and his followers captured much of present Indian land. At the age of nine, Sambhaji was sent to live with Mughal commanders, as a political hostage for a treaty King Shivaji had signed with the Mughals. When he came back he proved his abilities, he was a good warrior and an able commander who won 128 battles and lost none. He was famous and hated by Mughals for “Scorched earth” tactics which involves destroying anything that might be useful to the enemy while advancing through or withdrawing from an area. It is a military strategy where all of the assets that are used or can be used by the enemy are targeted, such as food sources, transportation, communications, industrial resources, and even the people in the area. The practice can be carried out by an army in enemy territory, or in its own home territory.
Sambhaji did not have a very smooth relationship with his father King Shivaji and was imprisoned too and had equally tough time in ascending to the throne as there were many opponents to him.
The 1687 Battle of Wai, Maratha forces were badly weakened by the Mughals. The key Maratha commander Hambirao Mohite was killed, and troops started to desert the Maratha armies. Sambajiraje’s positions were spied upon by Shirke clan Marathas who had defected to the Mughals, and in February 1689 Sambhaji and 25 of his advisor were captured by the Mughal forces of Muqarrab Khan on 1 Feb, 1689.
He along with his captured men was brutally tortured for over a fortnight. The torture involved plucking out their eyes and tongue and pulling out their nails. The later part involved removing their skin. On March 11, 1689, Sambhaji was finally killed, reportedly by tearing him apart from the front and back with ‘Wagh Nakhe’ (‘Tiger claws’, a kind of weapon), and was beheaded with an axe. His torture and execution was done at Vadhu on the banks of the Bhima river, near Pune. People of Maharashtra, a state in India still remember him as a great warrior who fought for them and is lauded for his bravery. He was 31 years old when he was executed.
Sardar Banda Singh Bahadur
He was born into a Rajput family of Kashmir and owing to a freak accident had given up world life in his early 20s. It was after his meeting with Guru Gobind Singh that he became a Sikh and took up arms to fight against Mughal tyranny. From 1707 till 1716 at the time of his death, he struggled to fight against Mughal tyranny. His exploits and wars were against those Mughal who were so much consumed by power that they killed anyone who opposed them, which included noted Sufi saints . Sufi are the most liberal Islamic followers and don’t believe in material possession, unlike the Mughals of that time who took away everything that you had as per their wish. Hence forth many Sufis use to clash with Mughals over the later’s behavior towards masses.
Banda Singh even established the first Sikh state. There was one war in which he fought wazir khan of sirhind, in that battle he was joined by many Sikhs and Hindu jats, Gujars and Rajputs of about five thousand which propelled his army to a number of 50000 and won the battle against a well-trained army whose leader had issue jihad against them. Wazir Khan was killed.
Bahadur Shah, the Mughal emperor son of Aurangzeb journeyed northwards from Deccan to punish Sikhs as he has been in war with Marathas over there. Fearing that some Sikhs might not have smuggled themselves into the royal camp disguised as Hindus, Bahadur Shah ordered all Hindus employed of imperial forces to shave off their beards. Emperor Bahadur Shah’s order, issued on December 10, 1710 was a general warrant for the faujdars to “kill the worshipers of Nanak, i.e. Sikhs, wherever they are found. Banda Singh was chased out of every corner of Punjab and he took refuge in the Shivalik hills. There he got married to a daughter of hill chief.
He raided again into Mughal Empire but the numbers of Mughal army overwhelmed him. Later he was eventually captured after a siege of eight months in which some left him and remaining of his defenders ran out of ammunition and food. They tried to exist on boiled leaves and the bark of trees, and were gradually reduced to mere skeletons. Then on 17th December, 1715, Abdus Samad shouted across the separating moat, that he would not allow any killing by his men, if Banda opened the gate to the fortress. When Banda ordered the gate be opened, the Mughals rushed in to spear or stab as many as three hundred of the half-dead and helpless defenders. About 200 were captured alive and handcuffed in twos. Banda Singh had chains round his ankles and his wrists, and was then locked in an iron cage.
He was produced before the Mughal Emperor along with 740 sikhs where he was mocked for being a king. The execution of Sikhs went on for 7 days. Banda Singh was then given a short sword and ordered to kill his own son 3 year old Ajay Singh. As he sat unperturbed, the executioner moved forward and plunged his sword into the little child cutting the body into two. Then pieces of flesh were cut from the body and thrown in Banda’s face. His liver was removed and thrust into Banda Singh’s mouth. The executioner then pulled out Banda’s eyeballs with his dagger. While Banda sat still, the executioner took his sword and slashed off his left foot, then both his arms. Finally, they tore off his flesh with red-hot pincers and cut his body up into pieces. These details of the torture are given in full, by the following writers such as Mohammed Harisi, Khafi Khan, Thornton and Elphinstone. Banda Singh Bahadur was 46 years old when he was executed.
He was a Muslim Rajput from a warrior tradition and was a bitter enemy of Akbar, 3rd Mughal Ruler. His clan would not bow down to the then Mughal Emperor Akbar’s authority. Their pride was such that they refused to pay any taxes and refused to acknowledge Akbar as their ruler. When Akbar came to Lahore, he ordered the execution of all the rebels. Dhulla’s father and his grandfather were both killed. To instill fear into the hearts of the common man, Akbar got their skins stuffed with wheat hay (toori) and hung the dead-bodies on the main door. This death was so gruesome that even now to instill fear in north India, same story is repeated either to children or to enemies.
When this all incident happened Dhulla wasn’t even born, his mother was pregnant with him. He was never told of the cause of his father’s and grandfather’s death till he was a young man. There are many stories to justify this but the major theory is that at the time Dulla was born, Akbar’s wife gave birth to Salim (who would later become Emperor Jahangir). But Salim was a weakling and on doctors’ suggestions Akbar brought in Ladhi (Dhulla’s mother and a strong Rajput woman) to his palace in Delhi and made her to breast feed Salim. So both Dhulla and Salim were practically brought up by Ladhi and were milk-brothers. In adolescents, these two had a good friendship.
During a later period in his life Salim came to him as he had fallen out with Akbar and instigated Dhulla against Akbar. With salim’s help Dhulla built up an army and use to raid the caravan of Akbar’s merchants. He used to then distribute these items to the poor, thereby leading to a popular support for him in masses. It is believed that Dhulla had restored the prestige/Honour of an innocent girl whose modesty was outraged (she was rapped) by a Mughal general by marrying her off to one of his fellow commanders. He had also adopted her as his daughter.
Dhulla’s uncle Jalaludin was envious because of the rising popularity of his nephew and complained to Akbar against Dhulla. The final nail in the coffin came when Dhulla captured Akbar’s two wives that infuriated Akbar so much that he sent an entire Army to capture him. The overwhelming numbers of Mughal army went against him and he was captured.
Dhulla Bhatti gave them a fierce fight but eventually was captured and executed William Wallace way, where his body parts were cut one by one and his both arms and legs were sent to four corners of the Empire. His body parts were sent to all the regions of the Mughal Kingdom as a sign of a warning of the things not to do. There was one Sufi saint close to Dhulla Bhatti who tried to stop his excutions and for which he got into trouble with the police chief there at the spot of execution, the sufi saint’s name was Shah Hussain, he belonged to Dhudha clan of Rajputs. So this story also points out that Muslims in a whole were not in accordance with Mughals as many considered Mughals as foreigners and exploiters.Dhulla Bhatti was in 40s when he was killed along with his son.
The stories of these three brave men are synonymous in one thing that all died fighting for freedom at the hands of self-obsessed people who used religion and their power as a tool for propagating authority or in the words of scholars: Islamic supremacism (this stands true for Aurangzeb even though for Akbar that might be a subject of debate.) One knows that those associated with Mughal kingdom would never accept it as the war crimes but rather as punishments, which includes those Hindus who were Mughal subjects. The irony of the situation was that most non-Muslim officers were in the time of Aurangzeb’s court, but this doesn’t obliviates him of his genocidal actions towards Sikhs and Hindus who demanded freedom.
So my final question remains and most importantly that associated with the current scenario, are we still at war with that supremacist enemy,with whom our ancestors fought ?
There was another point which came out in the discussion:
Before Islam came there were fights between Hindus and Buddhist, as I guess it was in the nature of Humans to fight and more importantly those who lived in the region in todays world know as north India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The region of Afghanistan and Pakistan was full of Buddhist culture, something which has been documented and authenticated by the art facts found in the region (even though many Islamist or Ultra Nationalist in Pakistan want to deny it and try to link themselves as descendants of Arabs, in short propelling their inferiority complex in comparison to an Arab).
Whatever may be the religion, for 5000 years this region of North India, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been in conflict with each other and with those who came from out site. So coming back to the main question, are these events part of small battle or recent war or rather it is part of an ancient war which has been going on for thousands of years.
For me and my debating circle, it seems like the ancient war is still carrying on, not that I am supporting it or condemning it but rather just observing it. Capt Kalia’s family fights for his death being recognized as war crime according to Geneva Convention, which I donot know when it will be accepted in UN.
One thing is sure that war crime of such kind has been part and parcel of South Asian history and nobody cares about it till the time it hits you.