You could make out from his physical demeanour, that he was in the army and probably at the level where there are a few stars on the epaulette. So he was a General and had seen action in Kargil, Kashmir, the Taj terrorists in Bombay, and was also ADC to the King of Bhutan. That looked like a lot of ground covered, but which I hoped would make him interesting to talk to. The most interesting part of the couple of hours we spent talking is what I want to get out first. I asked him about the North East. His instinctive or instant reply was ” what’s the problem there, its full of Hindus”. To his credit he didn’t elaborate on that line of thought. Then about Kashmir he said, the Pandits should return to the Valley as everything in most parts of Kashmir was normal. He also felt that it was the most beautiful place on the planet after which came Kerala…ok, A man of discerning tastes. (Disclaimer: my parents belong to Kerala). He then talked about the Bodos “how can a man become a minority in his own country”. In my mind I said, even I am a minority in my country. According to him the army’s message to the Bodos was “do what you want (with the bangladeshis)we will not look, but if you get hostile with us we will shoot you down”. So in my mind I started viewing him as a slightly right wing guy who feels Muslims are to blame for the stuff in Kashmir, and Bodos should kill a few Bangladeshis. I must admit here that if I was in Bodoland, and if there were people coming over across the border I may have done the same thing. Shoot them etc. Or would I? Would I have instead worked hard etc to gain economic superiority. That’s another topic on immigrants and the antiquity of immigration. But then, towards the very end of the conversation, and I can’t seem to remember how we got there, he made a remarkable volte face’. He said the Pandits are to blame for the whole situation in Kashmir. “They pay peanuts to a man who is working his ass of and who is so skilful”; “the carpet making guy uses huge magnifying lens and does incredibly intricate work and the Pandits pay these chaps a few rupees a day and pocket the big profits.” The guy who does boating all day, the artisans and etc, they all according to him, have been exploited by the Pandits and therefore militancy was a natural outcome. He was emphatic about the skill and hard work of these guys. “I salute these guys”.
Ok I remember now. The conversation got here when we were talking about Naxalites. He said “how can we take away their land, their lifestyle and give them nothing in return. We mine their lands and they get nothing”. His idea was to give them part of it through some mechanism.
When you sit to write everything comes back. I am reminded of Francis Bacon who said something about how reading makes you a full man and writing a precise or exact man. I think he mentioned talking too but I am sure that was lower than reading and writing on his scale.
So my impression of him started as right wing and then moved right back to the center. My impression is irrelevant. What I want to say is how people have a view which often is the popular view, and the one they trot out first in public, and another which may be quite different. Do individuals and groups have different views? I am reminded, which I am frequently reminded of, Nietzsche and how he felt insanity was a group and epoch problem rather than an individual problem. Let me quote. In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” I read this first nearly twenty years back, and I felt then like I feel now, that its spot on. Though it does go against ‘crowdsourced wisdom is better’. That’s another topic for another day.
To come back to how my view changed: If I had chosen to complete Sudoku and therefore spoken to him for a much shorter period, I would have gone away thinking about how Muslims have screwed up Kashmir or how right wing a General in the Indian Army was.
I think its good to give his background, it will make you think. He is the fourth generation in the army; his great grandfather was a risaldar and his grandfather was in charge of operations during the Partition and was decorated with the equivalent of the Mahavir Chakra. He also was uncontested winner for 25 years in a constituency in Rajasthan. I didn’t google it because its not the veracity of magnitude, but the direction of his background, which is relevant. So the army is in safe and good hands. A feel good conclusion only. A Man purse looks incongrous even on a six feet plus lean and mean looking two star general. Who ever fnnng conceived this stupid practical idea. His daughters must have gifted it to him. He is still hopeful that the youngest of the two will be the fifth generation. I hope so too. I told him to write a book.
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