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India, War and the Armed Forces: Books to read

 

Our soldiers’ heroism and valour is perhaps not talked about enough. As the country celebrates Army Day, here are books by various authors on the history of India at war, accounts of fighting and stories from the border. Learn more about the impact of war: personally and politically.

Also included are some titles to introduce the special forces to your children: they talk about life in the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.

The Raj at War

At the heart of The Raj at Warare the many lives and voices of ordinary Indian people. Yasmin Khan presents the hidden and sometimes overlooked history of India at war, and shows how mobilisation for the war introduced seismic processes of economic, cultural and social change―decisively shaping the international war effort, the unravelling of the empire and India’s own political and economic trajectory.

 

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A Revolutionary History of Interwar India

Focusing on the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA), A Revolutionary History… delivers a fresh perspective on the ambitions, ideologies and practices of this influential organization formed by Chandrashekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh and inspired by transnational anti-imperial dissent. It is a new interpretation of the activities and political impact of the north Indian revolutionaries who advocated the use of political violence against the British.

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India’s War

Between 1939 and 1945 India changed to an extraordinary extent. Millions of Indians suddenly found themselves as soldiers, fighting in Europe and North Africa but also – something simply never imagined – against a Japanese army threatening to invade eastern India. Many more were pulled into the vortex of wartime mobilization.

Srinath Raghavan’s compelling and original book gives both a surprising new account of the fighting and of life on the home front.

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SHOOT, DIVE, FLY

Learn all about an exceptional way of life SHOOT, DIVE, FLY aims to introduce teenagers to the armed forces and tell them about the perils-the rigours and the challenges-and perks-the thrill and the adventure-of a career in uniform. Ballroom dancing, flying fighter planes, detonating bombs, skinning and eating snakes in times of dire need, and everything else in between-there’s nothing our officers can’t do!. Read twenty-one nail-biting stories of daring. Hear from some amazing men and women about what the forces have taught them-and decide if the olivegreen uniform is what you want to wear too.

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Vijyant at Kargil

This was the last letter Captain Vijyant Thapar wrote to his family. He was twenty-two when he was martyred in the Kargil War, having fought bravely in the crucial battles of Tololing and Knoll. A fourth-generation army officer, Vijyant dreamt of serving his country even as a young boy. In this first-ever biography, we learn about his journey to join the Indian Military Academy and the experiences that shaped him into a fine officer.

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Kargil

Kargil takes you into the treacherous mountains where some of Indian Army’s bloodiest battles were fought. Interviewing war survivors and martyrs’ families, Rachna Bisht Rawat tells stories of extraordinary human courage, of not just men in uniform but also those who loved them the most. With its gritty stories of incomparable bravery, Kargil is a tribute to the 527 young braves who gave up their lives for us-and the many who were ready to do it too.

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Guns, Guts and Glory

The perfect boxset to gift: this has three titles. 1965: Stories from the Second Indo-Pakistan War, Shoot, Dive, Fly: Stories of Grit and Adventure from the Indian Army and The Brave: Param Vir Chakra Stories that share stories from the war

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India’s Most Fearless I &II

India’s Most Fearless covers fourteen true stories of extraordinary courage and fearlessness, providing a glimpse into the kind of heroism our soldiers display in unthinkably hostile conditions and under grave provocation. The highly anticipated sequel to India’s Most Fearless brings you fourteen more stories of astonishing fearlessness, and gets you closer than ever before to the personal bravery that Indian military men display in the line of duty.

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1965

On 1 September 1965, Pakistan invaded Chamb district in Jammu and Kashmir, triggering a series of tank battles, operations and counter-operations. It was only the bravery and well-executed strategic decisions of the soldiers of the Indian Army that countered the very real threat of losing Kashmir to Pakistan. Recounting the battles fought by five different regiments, the narrative reconstructs the events of the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war, outlining details never revealed before, and remembers its unsung heroes.

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The Brave 

Twenty-one riveting stories about how India’s highest military honor was won. Rachna Bisht Rawat takes us to the heart of war, chronicling the tales of twenty-one of India’s bravest soldiers. Talking to parents, siblings, children and comrades-in-arms to paint the most vivid character-portraits of these men and their conduct in battle and getting unprecedented access to the Indian Army, Rawat has written the ultimate book on the Param Vir Chakra.

 

BOOKS FOR CHILDREN:

My Mother is in the Indian Air Force  

Rohan thinks his mom is a bit like a a superhero-she flies in to save the day, she loops and swoops between the clouds, she even jumps off planes wearing parachutes! But her job demands that she keep moving from place to place, and Rohan doesn’t want to move again. Not this time. Can he find a way to stay?

Read on to find out about the people and their families whose big and small acts of heroism make the Indian air force formidable!

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My Father is in the Indian Army

Beena’s dad is in the Indian army, which means that when duty calls, he’s got to get going at once. Beena knows her dad’s job is important, but her birthday is coming up. She really, really wants her dad to be at home to celebrate with her. Will he be able to make it back in time?

Read on to find out about the people and their families whose big and small acts of heroism make the Indian army inspiring!

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My Sister is in the Indian Navy

Nikky’s sister is in the navy. When her ship is in port, she and Nikky get to do lots of fun things together. Nikky would like to spend more time with his sister, and he doesn’t want her to leave, but he knows that, eventually, her sailing orders will arrive…

Read on to find out about the people and their families whose big and small acts of heroism make the Indian navy exemplary!

‘We Don’t Really Know Fear’: ‘India’s Most Fearless’: An Excerpt

The Army major who led the legendary September 2016 surgical strikes on terror launch pads across the LoC; a soldier who killed 11 terrorists in 10 days; a Navy officer who sailed into a treacherous port to rescue hundreds from an exploding war; a bleeding Air Force pilot who found himself flying a jet that had become a screaming fireball . . .
India’s Most Fearless is a collection of their own accounts or of those who were with them in their final moments.
Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book ‘We Don’t Really Know Fear’ :The September 2016 Surgical Strikes in PoK
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Uri, Jammu and Kashmir 18 September 2016

Final checks on the AK-47 rifles. Final checks on the stacks of ammunition magazines and grenades stuffed into olive-green knapsacks. The 4 men shoved fistfuls of almonds into their mouths, chewing quickly in the darkness and swallowing. Small, light and packed with a burst of energy, mountain almonds are as much a staple for terrorist infiltrators as their weapons are. The high-protein mouthfuls would have to sustain the 4 men for the next 8 hours.
At least 8 hours.
Dressed in deceptive Indian Army combat fatigues, and shaven clean to blend in, the 4 emerged from their concealed launch point below a ridgeline overlooking a stunning expanse of frontier territory. In total darkness, they trekked for 1 km down to the powerfully guarded premises of the Indian Army’s Uri Brigade in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri sector, on the LoC.
The 4 men knew their mission was not particularly extraordinary. Indian military facilities had been attacked by Pakistani terrorists before. In fact, just 8 months earlier, in January 2016, an identical number of terrorists had infiltrated the Indian Air Force’s base in Pathankot, where they had managed to kill 7 security personnel before being eliminated.
But there was something these men did not know. What they were about to do would change India like nothing else had in the past quarter century. It would compel India across a military point of no return that it had resisted until then.
Above all, it would awaken a monster that Pakistan had been arrogantly certain would remain in eternal slumber.
Infiltrating the Army camp at Uri before sunrise, the  4 men crept forward with an unusual sense of familiarity. Their Pakistani handlers had clearly ‘war-gamed’ the attack with maps and models of the camp. Wasting no time in familiarizing themselves with the camp’s layout, they headed straight for a group of tents where the soldiers were sleeping.
By the time the sun was fully up and Special Forces (SF) commandos had been diverted to Uri as reinforcements,  17 Indian soldiers lost their lives. Two more would die later in hospital.
In a valley that has steadily numbed India with uninterrupted spillage of blood, the Uri terror ambush was special. Other than the horrifying scale of casualties the 4 terrorists managed to achieve, it was the hubris of the Uri attack that ignited unprecedented anger. It had come while families still mourned those who had died defending the Pathankot Air Force base only 8 months before.
Like the 4 terrorists, Pakistan was probably confident that India’s ensuing wrath would be confined to public outrage and diplomatic condemnations, a standardized matrix of responses that it had learnt to handle with mastery. But Pakistan did make 1 devastating miscalculation. India was about to use precisely its reputation for inaction to exact a hitherto unthinkable revenge.
As blanket coverage of the Uri attack took over television news and the Internet on the morning of 18 September, a chill descended upon India’s Raisina Hill in Delhi. Emergency meetings were held in the most secret ‘war rooms’ of the security establishment, one of them presided over by Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
It was at this meeting that the Indian leadership secretly took 2 major decisions: (1) the Indian military would take the fight to the enemy this time to deliver a brutal response to the Uri attack; (2) the country’s ministers, including Modi himself, would play their parts to perpetuate and amplify India’s reputation for inaction until such a time when the response had been delivered. An elaborate, carefully crafted political masquerade would thus begin the following morning.
Meanwhile, 800 km away and high up in the Himalayas, a young Indian Army SF officer sat grimly in front of a small television in his barracks. Uri was his area. His hunting ground. Away on a special 2-month mission to the Siachen Glacier with a small team of men from his unit, the calm of  Maj. Mike Tango’s demeanour belied the fury that consumed him within. He watched familiar pictures from the Uri Army camp flicker on the screen in front of him. And just as the Indian government was about to decide on an unprecedented course of action, a prescient warning rang in the Major’s mind.
‘We knew the balloon had gone up. This wasn’t a small incident. There was no question of sitting silent. This was beyond breaking point,’ he says.
As second-in-command, or 2IC, of an elite Parachute Regiment (Special Forces), or the Para-SF as it is called,  Maj. Tango had spent a decade of his 13 service years in J&K.  He had been part of over 20 successful antiterror operations. And yet, the morning of 18 September had sent a knife through the officer’s heart. He could not wait to get back to the rest of his unit deployed in and around where the terrorists had struck.
Upon receiving the call from Udhampur that he had been expecting, from his unit’s Commanding Officer, or CO,  Maj. Tango gathered his men immediately for a quick return to the Valley. The team reached Dras that same night of  18 September—a date the men would never forget.
The next morning, as they began their journey to Srinagar, things were already in motion in Delhi. The first minister to make a statement was former Army Chief, Gen. V.K. Singh, who, after the traditional condemnations, made a remarkably generous appeal in the circumstances—he said that India could not act on emotion. It would be a critical spark to the success of the masquerade, followed shortly thereafter by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who declared that the sacrifice of the Uri soldiers would not go in vain. Speaking to the Army in Srinagar, Parrikar sounded a familiar note, asking the Army to take ‘firm action’, but not specifying what such action needed to be. This was standard-issue Bharat Sarkaar (Indian Government) response after a terror attack.
However, to ensure that the government’s messaging was not so measured as to rouse suspicion, junior ministers were tasked with adding some fire to the proceedings. That crucial bit was deftly served up by Manohar Parrikar’s junior minister, Subhash Bhamre, who declared that the time had come ‘to hit back’.
Two more top-level meetings took place on 19 September— one chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who had cancelled his visit to Russia, and the other by Prime Minister Modi at the PMO. Army Chief Gen. Dalbir Singh, who had dashed to the Kashmir valley just hours after the previous day’s attack, had been conveyed the government’s clear political directive. He arrived in Srinagar with the green signal that the SF had so far only ever dreamt about: permission to plan and execute a retaliatory strike with the government’s full backing.
Over the next 24 hours, the Army would draw up a devastating revenge plan, with options for the government leadership to choose from.
The Army routinely simulates attacks on enemy territory during combat exercises and as preparation for possible hostilities. But as the COs of the 2 SF units (one of them being Maj. Tango’s unit) began listing their options, they knew that history was being written then and there.
On 20 September, just as Maj. Tango and his team arrived in Srinagar, the Army’s Northern Commander, or GOC-in-C  of the Udhampur-headquartered Northern Command,  Lt. Gen. Deependra Singh Hooda, had in his hands a final list of mission options and was preparing to present them to the government in Delhi through encrypted channels. The options were presented with remarkable detail.
‘We just needed clearance. In the SF, we are war-ready at all times. When we are not in operations, we are preparing for them. There’s a purpose behind everything we do,’  Maj. Tango says.
At the Army Headquarters in Delhi, the mood was expectedly sombre, but focused. Aided by a team that had been galvanized by the attack, Vice Chief of the Army Staff (later Chief) Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat was steeped in the planning phase, bringing decades of infantry training to what would be the most decisive operation he would help oversee. What happened on 18 September was personal for Lt. Gen. Rawat. As a young Captain, he had commanded a Gorkha Rifles company in Uri in the early 1980s and had gone on to command a brigade in one of the most restive parts of the Kashmir valley. He would return years later as a Major General to command the  Baramulla-based 19 Division. As he focused on the unprecedented plans on his table, Lt. Gen. Rawat had no way of knowing that a few months later, his experience in J&K and his crucial role in planning India’s response to Uri would be high on the government’s mind when it entrusted him with leadership of one of the largest armies in the world.
(Continued…)
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