My B’day Wish – To visit Pakistan as a tourist and meet the regular citizens there!!!
Apr 2nd 2011. A major cult(!) in India was so jubilant and infact I was relieved!!! India won the ICC Cricket World Cup. I am not a major fan of cricket and so then, why was I relieved? Well, it was my b’day on the very day of ICC World Cup Finals between India and Srilanka. I was more than happy when India won, coz since morning, my friends kept calling me to wish me and also to warn me that I’ll be killed by them if anything untoward happened to the Indian Cricket Team. Well, I was saved!!!
A few days before this match was the semi-finals which was an India - Pakistan match. The whole concept of the India – Pakistan match is more considered by either countries as a war than a match. It always has this huge expectation and commotion, anytime there happens an India – Pakistan match, may it be even one of the earliest round.
This match was played at Mohali. The country heads of either countries were there. The army, the National Security Guard (NSG), the Special Protection Group (SPG), the state police were all there for protection. Protection was in several layers and there was even a no-fly zone o’er there!!!
The Cricket Fans in India and Pakistan considered the match as a life n death issue, a question of prestige and more of a war than match. Yes, even I had this feeling a few years ago until a few incidents CHANGED THAT FEELING ALL TOGETHER.
First was coming to know about Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and Brigadier Khwaja Mohammad Naser. Who is this person Lt. Arun Khetarpal? He was an officer of the Indian Army ranked as 2nd Lieutenant in Poona Horse Battalion and a posthumous recipient of the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military decoration for valour in face of the enemy during the Battle of Basantar.
From the PVC Citation: On 16 December 1971, the Squadron Commander of ‘B’ Squadron, the Poona Horse asked for reinforcement as the Pakistani Armour which was superior in strength, counter attacked at Jarpal, in the Shakargarh Sector. On hearing this transmission, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal who was in ‘A’ Squadron, voluntarily moved along with his troop, to assist the other squadron. En route, while crossing the Basantar River, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and his troop came under fire from enemy strong points and RCL gun nests that were still holding out. Time was at a premium and as critical situation was developing in the ‘B’ Squadron sector, Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, threw caution to the winds and started attacking the impending enemy strong points by literally charging them, overrunning the defence works with his tanks and capturing the enemy infantry and weapon crew at pistol point. In commander of his troop was killed. Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal continued to attack relentlessly until all enemy opposition was overcome and he broke through towards the ‘B’ Squadron position, just in time to see the enemy tanks pulling back after their initial probing attack on this squadron. He was so carried away by the wild enthusiasm of battle and the impetus of his own headlong dash that he started chasing the withdrawing tanks and even managed to shoot and destroy one. Soon thereafter, the enemy reformed with a squadron of armour for a second attack and this time they selected the sector held by Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and two other tanks as the points for their main effort. A fierce tank fight ensured ten enemy tanks were hit and destroyed of which Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal was severely wounded. He was asked to abandon his tank but he realised that the enemy though badly decimated was continuing to advance in his sector of responsibility and if he abandoned his tank the enemy would break through, he gallantry fought on and destroyed another enemy tank, At this stage his tank received a second hit which resulted in the death of this gallant officer.Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal was dead but he had, by his intrepid valour saved the day; the enemy was denied the breakthrough he was so desperately seeking. Not one enemy tank got through.
Wasn’t that a great show of valour and bravery? But what happened later on, years later, is the most heartening and touching incident. Let me borrow a few paragraphs from Wikepedia:
In 2001, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal, father of Lt.Arun Ketarpal - now 81 years old - felt a strong desire to visit his birthplace at Sargodha, now in Pakistan. At Lahore airport, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was met by Brigadier Khwaja Mohammad Naser, who took it upon himself to be Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal host and guide. Brigadier Naser really went out of way to ensure that Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal had a satisfying and nostalgic visit to his old house in Sargodha. Upon his return to Lahore he was once again the guest of Brigadier Naser for three days.Finally, on the last night before Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal's departure, Brigadier Naser said 'Sir, there is something that I wanted to tell you for many years but I did not know how to get through to you. Finally, fate has intervened and sent you to me as an honoured guest. The last few days we have become close to one another and that has made my task even more difficult. It is regarding your son who is, of course, a national hero in India. However on that fateful day, your son and I were soldiers, unknown to one another, fighting for the respect and safety of our respective countries. I regret to tell you that your son died in my hands. Arun's courage was exemplary and he moved his tank with fearless courage and daring, totally unconcerned about his safety. Tank casualties were very high till finally there were just two of us left facing one another. We both fired simultaneously. It was destined that I was to live and he was to die.It is only later that I got to know how young he was and who he was. We are trained to fight and kill without mercy or remorse. We do in war what we have to without thinking too much about it. However we are humans too and sometimes war takes a personal turn and makes an impact on the inner self.I had all along thought that I would ask your forgiveness, but in telling the story I realize that there is nothing to forgive. Instead I salute your son for what he did at such a young age and I salute you too, because I know how he grew into such a young man. In the end it is character and values that matter."Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal was silent as he did not know how to react. To be faced with the person who killed his son, and also to be enjoying his hospitality and being his guest is a confusing feeling. However, Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal immediately realized that Brigadier Naser was genuinely wanting, in some way to compensate for something that he did only in the line of duty. The soldier must do what he has been trained to do unhesitatingly, and with full resolve and determination.Both the Brigadiers retired for the night deep in thought. There are never any victors in war; both sides lose and it is the families that have to pay the price and suffer the most."With Warmest regards and utmost sincerity, To: Brigadier M.L. Khetarpal, father of Shaheed Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, PVC, who stood like an unsurmountable rock, between the victory and failure, of the counter attack by the 'SPEARHEADS' 13 LANCERS on 16 December 1971 in the battle of "Bara Pind' as we call it and battle of "Basantar' as 17 Poona Horse remembers. --Khwaja Mohammad Naser, 13 Lancers, 2 March 2001, Lahore, Pakistan
Taking someone’s life is the crudest thing and the harshest punishment anyone can give anyone. Even a judge in a court thinks a thousand times before deciding on execution as punishment. In a war 2 people, 2 soldiers stand opposite to each other and kill each other. They don’t even know who is the one they are killing. It is not the case as terrorists, who ought to be killed; Soldiers are normal family men, someone’s father, someone’s husband, someone’s brother, someone’s son and they kill each other with no idea of even the name of the one they are attacking. They have no personal hatred towards each other. They are given their commands by their defence heads who are directed by the country heads. It is under their pressure and instruction that they cross the LOC, that they indulge in intrusions, that they wage war, all for their country. But who is responsible for the lives lost?
Secondly, during the 1999 Kargil war, I met a lady whose husband had gone to fight, who was performing every other kind of prayer to ensure the safety of her husband. Thank God, he returned back safely. It is also a fact that another lady, a wife of a Pakistani Soldier who was fighting with him, would be doing very similar prayers!!! Who wins??? Why should this happen??? Why not stick to our own LOC, without indulging in intrusion or trying to capture new summits, and live a life amicably.
Finally, very recently I attended an exhibition in Chennai organized by the SAARC about Women Entrepreneurs. Artisans and craftsmen from all over South Asia had put up their stalls here. Ofcourse there was a Pakistani Lady as well. She specialized in Sindhi embroidery. I looked at the lady and she was just another female from this sub-continent, very similar to the other Punjabi women I meet often. She was a craftsperson who lived a very normal life like me. I bought a couple of bangles from her, just as I do with many other craftsmen, just to patronize their skill. The wife of any Pakistani soldier would be the same, so normal!!!
I wish the never ending commotions and unrest between India and Pakistan come to an end.
I wish we could destroy the militants and terrorists who uselessly create unrest and take away lives, from their roots, together.
And ofcourse, I wish I could visit Pakistan as a tourist just I visit any other place in India.
‘Wars are created by politicians, compounded by bureaucrats and fought by soldiers.’ - Anon
Sources for details on Arun Khetarpal: Wikipedia