The Move Order
It was Thursday, the seventeenth day of August 1978. I went to the office in the afternoon to collect my Move Order and Rail Warrant.
Àre the papers ready, Deepak?’ I enquired while entering the office.
`Yes, sir, please sit down’the Adjutant replied. He called the runner and asked him to bring the papers. When the papers were handed over, I at first casually and then carefully perused the move order. My face showed signs of irritation as I read through. Unable to contain myself I asked, `Where do you suppose you’re sending me Deepak - to a brigade HQs? Or the AHQs?’
`What’s happened, sir?’ The Adjutant asked in surprise.
`Now my friend look, the authority for move is given as "Battalion Order part I", I said, pointing at the relevant column of the move order .
`What is wrong in that, sir?’ the Adjutant showed his surprise. Although I looked slightly angry at the ignorance shown by the Adjutant, I explained very gently.
`Deepak, you should know, whevever there is an intercommand movement in the case of an officer, a sanction for such a move is needed from the AHQ - and that invariably becomes the authority for the Move. Since I am moving to AHQ, the authority for my move will be the letter which originated from the AHQs..... and according to which I am to collect the cards ! Do you understand that ?’
`Yes, sir. I suppose so.’
`Well you don’t have to suppose. Try and digest it for your future reference .... Now, have the authority filled in correctly...
And where is the authority letter for me, to collect cards... and then the niminal roll of officers whose cards I am to collect?’, I asked, shuffling through the papers and not finding the other two important documents.
`What authority letter?’, enquired the perplexed Adjutant. I game him a contemptuous look and replied sarcastically, `Deepak, when a unit sends its `representative to collect any document / material from another unit / Hqs, an authority letter is given which reads: "Number so and so, Rank XYZ, Name ABC, whose specimen signatures are appended below, is authorised to collect.... etc. etc. etc. on behalf of this unit". Then there are the specimen signatures preceded by signatures of the commander or the staff officer ... And, that is the authority letter I am talking about. Are you aware of that or not?’
`Sir, I think - ah - well I...’
`Now Deepak, you better stop thinking and concentrate on work. By the way where is the letter from ?’ AHQs? Can I see that?’, I demanded. Ì’m sorry, but I have not seen the letter,’the Adjutant admitted.
At this revelation, I was astonished. I asked the Adjutant, `Tell me, what are you - a runner of the office - a post box! Or the Adjutant of this battalion? If the Adjutant of this battalion doesn’t know about the letters received by the unit, then who would know that there should be a letter according to which Identity Cards are required to be collected from the Regimental Police Havildar ?’
`Sir, kindly don’t be sarcastic. I will just find out from the Head Clerk.’ Saying this, he pressed the buzzer.
I further scanned through the Move Order. My eyes stopped at one sentence Ön arrival he will report to the DDMI, GSI(b)". I looked more irritable and confused.
In the meantime, the Head Clerk appeared with a note book in his hand. I heared the Adjutant asking the Head Clerk, `Sahib, where is the letter from AHQs according to which the Identity Cards are to be collected ?’
Ì don’t know, sir. I’ve not seen the letter.’
Hearing the Head Clerk, I lost my temper. I said, `The Adjutant doesn’t know! The Head Clerk doesn’t know!! I wonder then, who knows. It appears the main office of the battalion has started showing efficiency ! Eh? And the boss says "Sir, don’t be sarcastic. I will just find out". Find out my bloody foot.’ And looking at both of them I added, `Both of you should know that GSI (b) in the AHQs doesn’t issue identity cards.’ I then looked at the Adjutant and said, `Deepak, I am completely dismayed to find my one time understudy with the least control over work and efficiency of the office.’ I paused for a while and, giving back the papers, asked the Head Clerk to do the necessary corrections and to prepare the authority letters alongwith the nominal roll.
The Head Clerk kept standing while looking sickly pale.
`Now Head Clerk Sahib, what is wrong? Didm’t you hear me?’ I asked.
`Sir, in fact the letter has been received from the AHQs. But since it was marked as "Personal for the CO", neither of us saw the contents.......’
`Letter marked as "Personal for the CO"?’, I interrupted, expressing surprise and continued, À letter of so routine a nature as Identity Cards! It sounds completely absurd.’
`But that is how it is, isr,’ The Head Clerk said and added,
`The CO personally dictated the contents of your as well Major Tandon’s move order and directed me to prepare them accordingly... But I’ll prepare the authority letter and the nominal roll.’ Saying this he left.
By now I was completely preplexed and confused. I asked for the papers of Major Tandon. While perusing through the Move Order I read; Äuthority for move; Battalion part I Order ; Duty ; Proceeding in connection with interrogation of Chinese POWs: On arrival, he will report to DDMI GSI (b)". Having read this, my mind raced like a wild horse in all directions, trying to solve the mystery of the letter marked as personal for CO and the "dictation"and "direction" to the Head Cler, for preparing Major Tandon’s and my Move Orders.
An Adjutant is a mouthpiece of the commanding officer in a unit. He takes decisions on behalf of the latter and acts as his close, confidential advisor; practically in all matters pertaining to Intelligence, Operations and Discipline of the unit. There is virtually no matter in a unit which remains a secret for him.
Identity Cards is a subject of a routine nature. It does not need such high secrecy. Why could the letter not be seen by or shown to the Adjutant ? Why should such a letter be marked as "Personal"? It also seemed highly absured that the commanding officer should dictate the wording of a Move Order himself. Probably, it had never been done by any commanding officer in the history of such commands !
`While thinking so, I suddenly remembered the manner and the uneasiness of the CO at the briefing, a few days ago.
At that time I had thought "probably the old man has gone out of his mind or else is suffering from some mental disorder."
Was he? Or was there something else weighing on his mind ? I re-considered.
It further dawned on me : The identity cards were issued by the formation Hqs and not by the Army Hqs.
At this fresh revelation my confusion was complete. `What’s all this nonsense ? I thought, and pressed my mind deeper. If major Tandon was going for interrogation in connection with Chinese POWs then there has to be a letter to that effect.
`Have you seen the letter regarding Major Tandon’s move?’ I enquired from the Adjutant.
`Humm...’ I thought, Major Tandon, no doubt was a POW in 1962, but that was sixteen years ago. From where then, have the Chinese come as POWs in 1978? And, suppose they have; what could major Tandon do? He was not an interrogator. Also, he does not understand a word of the Chinese language. Why is he being sent at all, when there is no letter from the AHQs! And, even if there was a letter from the AHQ, why, has that also been hidden from the Adjutant?’
Such were the questions that caught my attention. I further realised : although GSI(b)f didn’t deal with identity cards, and that I knew for certain, but assuming it did, because the cards were of a new type being prepared and issued to the officers, for the first time, even then under no stretch of imagination had it ever dealt with Chinese interrogation. So why should then Major Tandon report to DDMI, GSI (b) ?
As a result of my quick analysis, I concluded that it was surely not for the collection of identity Cards that I was being sent on temporary duty ; whatever else it might be! Definitely there was something more to it, that was being worked out in highly suspicious circumstances. What could that be ?
GSI (b) is a branch of intelligence which deals with Security against Pakistan. So, automatically it follows my duty is connected with some security aspect. Could this be then connected with operation of sources while at Samba; this being my only connection with GSI (b) ? I speculated.
I had collected plenty of valuable information in regard to military matters, from across the border, from 1974 till 1976. I was given number of appreciation letters in recognition of my work by the senior Army Commanders. So, it was natural for me to presume that I was being sent to Delhi in that connection. However, this thought was dispelled when I considered about Major Tandon.
Why had Major Tandon been asked to report to GSI (b), while showing the duty as interrogation of Chinese POWs?... And, suppose I had been called in connection with my source operation, they could and they should have called me directly. This does not seem straight, I analysesd.
The only logical colclusion I could draw from this was that I was to be interrogated in regard to some security matter.
May be ! I thought’one of my sources / couriers have something to do with this ! Charming ! Then, concluding it was the duty of GSI (b) to investigate all such matters, I collected the papers, which had been prepared by then and left the office.
`Good evening, sir,’ I greeted major Tandon, who with his wife was enjoying a cup of tea in the court of his bunglow, ànd good evening Mrs. Tandon.’
`Good evening.’ both of them reciprocated simultaneously, while Major Tandon got up to welcome me.
`Please, remain seated, sir. I’ll pull up a chair for myself.’
`That;s all right Rathaur,’ and he shouted for the servant, asked him to bring a chair. The servant brought a chair and both of us set down together. in the meantime, Mrs. Tandon prepared a cup of tea and offered it to me.
`Thank you madam,’ I said, took a quick sip and put the cup back on the table.
`How is everything?’ Inquired Major Tandon
Ì’m not sure, sir.’
`Why, what’s the matter?... Did you collect the papers?’
`Yes, sir. I have just collected them and have come straight to you’.
Then I glanced at Mrs. Tandon forcing a courteous smile and said, ì could like to discuss something in private.’
Before Major Tandon could say anything , taking a hint Mrs. Tandon smiled and got up saying, `Well you’re free to talk or discuss anything you want. I was thinking of leaving, as I’ve got to prepare dinner.’
Looking gratefully at Mrs. Tandon, I apologetically said, Ì am sorry madam to trespass in your moment of provacy, but...’
Àray! Come off if Captain Rathaur. I in fact was about to leave for the kitchen when you came. Right? So don’t be apologetic.’ Saying this, she departed.
Without speaking, Major Tandon focussed his syes inquiringly at me.
`Sir, in fact there is nothing to get alarmed about but looking at the papers and deftly putting together various stands of staff work and the CO’s dubious conduct at the briefing, I am sceptical in regard to the true nature of our temporary duty.... There is something more to it.’ Saying this, I looked at Major Tandon’s face exploringly, but failed to find any anything; except that Major Tandon stirred in his chair becoming more attentive.
Taking a sip from his cup, Major Tandon said, `Don’t be so perfunctory! Tell me in detail.’
`Yes, sir, that’s actually why I have come to you; to discuss in detail.’ I explained to Major Tandon about my doubts, in detail. While explaining, I noticed continuous changes playing over the Major’s face.
`No’, he replied, Ì don’t really think your suspicious are well-founded.’
Ì hope they are not,’I said, `but one can’t deny the axiom from the logic, sir.’ Saying that I took out Major Tandon’s Move Order, showed it to him, and continued, `Look at this, you’re reporting to GSI(b), but your duty column speaks about Chinese POWs. Do you know, sir, GSI(b) doesn’t deal with the Chinese!.... If you don’t then U do.... But the only puzzle which I have not been able to solve, is about you. Why should you go?’ I looked at Major Tandon who appeared ashen by then.
`Did the CO tell you or hint at anything that we can draw any further conclusions from?’ I asked.
`No, he didn’t. The only thing he told me was that you were also going to Delhi and that we should better go together.’
`Thank you, sir. I suppose that should give some indications.
But before expressing my opinion let me ask you one more, pertinent question. Where did you serve before joining this battalion?’
Ì was in the 13th, you know that.’
`Yes, that I know... But what I meant was, before you joined the 13th - you were a provost marshal. Where was that formation with reference to its tole; I mean the sector?’
`Punjab sector. A...’
`That will do,’I cut him short and explained. `Now listen to what I have inferred from various details available. You’re aware for over two years, I served in the Intelligence. There, I operated sources and collected information. But the job, though full of interest is the dirtiest. In order to cultivate sources, one has to initially come, in close contact with rowdy and morally degenerate people like petty smugglers, cattle lifters, bootleggers and so on, so as to acquire a worthwhile contact that can give information. Till such time one gets the required person, one has perforce to provide protection and shelter to these people. Now, it is humanly impossible to screen their character, for they have little or no character. Thus, a fellow who works as your contact may be a double-crosser, getting the best of both sides. You must have read recently in the papers that there’s been a spurt in apprehension of spies in the Jammu and Kashmir sector. So naturally I presume one of my ex-contacts may also be among these celebrities and one who must have been such a double-crosser. And now, since he’s caught, he has incriminated me in some way - to get immunity or otherwise; I don’t know.’ I paused for a second, then said, `Perhaps for this reason, I have been called.’
`What you say, appears to convey some sense. But then, why me?’, he asked worriedly.
`Well, I’m coming to that, sir. There is wtill an ambiguity about your case, but I discern two things from this whole proposition. First: one of your men must be involved in trans-border activities who, upon his arrest, has tried to pull you in. Second: and that appears more plausible, you, are acting as my escort,’ I concluded and laughed.
`Well, I don’t agree with you,’ he said assuringly, Ìf it were the case the CO would definitely have given me some sort of hint.’
I mused for some time and said, `Sir, it is your prerogative not to agree. I am sure about my deductions, unless the foregoing facts are the result of some foolishness.... In any case it does not bother me at all, except a feeling of sadness that my name may be tarnished in such a way. But I am looking at this from a different angle and am completely dismayed to find such faulty functioning of our Military Intelligence Directorate. If they expect to exist by maintaining this type of secrecy, then they could not have stopped me from a clear escape?’ Saying this I smiled and added, Ànyway check up, if you so desire with the CO. Though, I suggested `why put him in embarrassment? Let him also be happy in his protective paradise of secrecy!... Let this be forgotten.... I’m sure you must have arranged transport for tomorrow?’
`Yes. I’ve done that’
`Then what time do we leave?’
`The train leaves at 1300 hours. Therefore, to be on time, we must leave by about a quarter to twelve. I’ll first direct the vehicle to your place, then you come here and we will leave... Would that be okay?’
`Yes, sir, that is fine. By the way, tomorrow is Rakhi festival holiday; going to the temple is compulsory.... Do we attend or avoid it?’
Ìt’d be better if we go there for half an hour at least.’
Òkay, sir.’ We’ll do that.... I now beg your leave.’ I got up and handed over the papers pertaining to Major Tandon.
`Good evening, sir and good night Mrs. Tandon.’
`You’re leaving Captain Rathaur?’ Asked Mrs. Tandon from the nearby kitchen.
`Yes madam, thank you and sorry for the disturbance.’ Saying that, I went to where I’d parked my scooter. Abruptly, I stopped, then turning back, asked, `Sir what time do we meet in JCO’s Mess - for the farewell party of Subedar... or should I say Honorary Lieut. Udai Singh.’
Ì think 20.00 hours’Major Tandon replied.
I wanted to ask if I could be excused from the party as I didn’t want to waste previous time which could be spent studying. I suppressed the desire - thanked Major Tandon once more and went home.
With a drink in my hand, I moved around the Mess, mixing with the officers and the JCO’s - talking to one - joking with another. I was enjoying myself. I deliberately avoided the commanding officer. Proud and passionate as I was, I felt very agitated at seeing the CO - whose presence reminded me of the disturbing inferences I had drawn from the day’s events.
`Hee Puff. Believe what? Going to the capital? - on temporary duty? Collection of identity cards, Eh?’, came a voice from behind.
Not letting any of the thoughts show on my face, I turned back and encountered Major P.D. Joshi’s enquiring glance. I twinkle was in his eyes.
"Joshi"who also was known by the sobriquet "Speedy"was one of my best friends. We had known each other for more than eight years. There was no such thing as "seniority"between us, in our private lives. The friendship had become more owing to the fact that our wives were also close friends - a bond which was envied by other.
`Yah. I think so.’ I replied `you want anything from there?’
`Nope.’ But come aside. I want to talk to you’.
Then both of us went outside. Speedy told me that my temporary duty was a pretext for something deeper.
`Thank you for mentioning this. What do you think, I don’t know?’
`Well grant me this much common sense - after all I have also put in some service,’ I replied nonchalantly.
`Then tell me what’s this? I mean is it something to do with interrogation? How come your name has appeared?’
`Now Speedy, relax. Don’t get jerky. Why my name has appeared is very simple.’
Thereafter I explained my deductions to Speedy in detail. Àpart from your sources, tell me if any other person who knows you might have been caught in such an act?’
`Yes, I know one such officer, Capt. Nagial. He was apprehended in 1975. That time I was the Ïntelligence Officer"in Samba, I explained.
`You said it was in 1975?’ Joshi asked.
`Yes, that was the time, but I find no reason why he should incriminate me. I served in Samba, whereas he was the "GSO 3 Intelligence"of a Corps Hqs - and if I correctly remember, I met him only once,’ I replied.
`Well, I don’t think him to be the case; you would have found your way to Delhi much before, as it did happen three years ago?’
Ànyway Speedy, whatever it is, I am not bothered though I am a bit dismayed. But what can the authorities do if someone has been so kind as to dub my name? It’s the duty of the authorities to screen the suspected names, is it not?’
`Well, I am highly relieved to hear that. Thanks. Otherwise I thought - or could it be?’
`Speedy don’t bloody hurt me. Right?’, I cut him short.
Joshi became cheerful and said `Come on boy, cheer up. It is nothing; just never mind’.
I gave a hearty laugh and said Ì instead of me, it is you Speedy who required cheering up.’
The party was over by 22.00 hours, an early escape, as attending the temple was compulsory for everyone, very early the following morning. I returned home and, after discussing with my wife about my departure the following day, I went to sleep. I thought about whether to tell her of the "suspected duty"and decided against it, fearing she’d get nervous, when in fact there was nothing to worry about. In any case I’ll be back soon’, I concluded, going to sleep.
The following morning, after leaving the temple, my wife and I went to the unit Cantee. Leaving my wife to do her shopping, I went to the office, filled in my duty forms and returned in a short while to pick her up. She proffered a couple of her purchase for my inspection; I looked into her eyes and reminded her that time was short. We returned home and I immediately began a last minute check of my luggage. My transport vehicle arrived a few minutes later and, while chewing on my sandwich, I directed the orderly to serve my wife properly, promising to come back as soon as possible, obivious to the evil fate which was about to befall me and my family. I was destined never to return home. When I did see my wife again seven months later, I was a changed man.
Preface | Temporary Duty | The Move Order | The Train Journey | The Reception | The Army HQ | Close Arrest | The Interrogation | Background | The Intelligence | The Security | The Devil | The Confession | The Foundation Stone | The Great Detectives | The Corroborations | An Approver | Confrontaions | Hibernations | Leading to the Trails | Fairy Tales | Into the Fire | Army Procedure | As a Winess | Meeting with Family | Habeas Corpus | Death of Democracy | The Trial | Prosecution Case | The Defence | The Press | Rebuttal | Aftermath | Mystery | Postscript | Annexure I | Home |