Monday 5 November 2012

Bijapur and the Gandhi connection

There is new addition to the history of Bijapur, the capital of the Adil Shahis. Already known as the City of Gol Gumbaz and Ibrahim Rouza, Bijapur now boats of a new addition and one that it closely connected to the Father of the Nation.
A few days ago, the Defence Ministry gifted the Sainik School of Bijapur with a Bofors Gun. This is a 5.5 inch Howitzer gun and it is placed within the vast campus of the Sainik School.
It is a medium range gun and it has seen action in several wars and for the first time in India in the India-Pakistan conflict of 1947-48. Subsequently, it was in the thick of action such in the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan and also the 1962 war with China.
This gun has played a vital role in destroying Patton tanks of the Paikstan Army at the Khem Karan sector in the Punjab in  the war against Pakistan. In 1965, Pakistan captured the border town of  Khem Karan, pushing hundreds of tanks into India.
India retaliated and one of the largest tank battles was fought from September 8 to September 10. This is called the battle of Asal Uttar. The Pakistanis lost 110 tanks and the Indians 10 tanks.
Pervez Musharraf, who later became President of Pakistan, was a lieutenant of 16 (SP) Artillery field Regiment, 1st Armoured Division.
After the battle, a new town was set up called Patton Nagar. This was the very place where a large number of Patton and Sherman tanks belonging to Pakistan were either captured or destroyed. Khem Karan is just five kms from the border with Pakistan. Guru Tegh Bahadur (1621–1675) visited it during his wanderings.
The small town was in Lahore district before  the partition of India. It then became a part of Amritsar district. Now it is in Tarn Taran district.
This Bofors gun also played a role in knocking out the Pakistani tanks. It was first introduced in the Indian Army in 1942 by the British and the Indians inherited it. It was finally decommissioned in 1998. Since then it had been lying in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh.
What makes this gun different is that it is this very apparatus that was used to carry the ashes of  Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. Let me make it clear. This is a gun and not the gun carrier that carried the body of Mahatma Gandhi (The same carrier was used to carry the body of Jawaharlal Nehru and Mother Theresa).
Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead at 5-10 p.m., on January 30, 1948 when he was walking to a prayer meeting at Birla House in Delhi. The last Congress leader to see and speak to him was Sardar Vallabhai Patel, the then Home Minister.
Gandhi was late for the prayer meeting as the discussion with Patel had ended late. Gandhi was walking slowly to the venue of the meeting, supported by Manu and Abha.
Though he had been warned about attacks on him, Gandhi had chosen to disregard pleas by Prime Minister Nehru, Patel and others for security to him. The year 1948 was seeing communal tensions and India and Pakistan were not on very friendly terms. There was revulsion and hatred over the mass killings on both sides of the border.
Nathuram Godse and some of his friends had held Gandhi responsible for the ills of partition. They had hatched a plan to eliminate Gandhi and had chosen the venue of the daily prayer meeting at Birla House for the act.      
Godse came forward, pushing his way through a throng of 500 people, and bent towards Gandhi as if doing a pranam. He then shot Gandhi and point blank range,
Gandhi collapsed and died. His body was taken to Raj Ghat in a  gun carriage. Later, his ashes were immersed and this Bofors Gun had the honour to carry his ashes.
The gun is on display in the Sainik School and you need permission from the school authorities to enter the campus.
The gun as an equipment (not the gun at Sainik School )was first introduced in the European sector during the middle of the  second world war. It was completely manufactured in Britain. It was introduced in 1941 and later in north Africa. It was later inducted into the Indian Army.
The gun was in production from 1941 to 1945. Apart from Britain and India, it was used by Australia, New Zealand, France, Poland, Canada, Portugal, Iraq, Malaysia, Burma ,Oman and Pakistan.
South Africa used this gun extensively in the Bush war or Border war from 1966 to 1989 with Angola.  
If you have the time and interest contrast this gun with the massive Malik-I-Maidan Tope which is placed on the ramparts of outer fort of Bijapur.
Mailk I Maidan means the monarch of the plains,. It weighs 55 tonnes and it is placed on a specially made platform called Shah Burz. It is 4 metres long and 1.5 metres in diameter. The gunner, after firing, would remain underwater as the sound was deafening.
It was cast in 1549 in Ahmednagar by Mohammad Bin Hassan  Rumi and captured by the Bijapur General Murari Pandit who  brought it to Bijapur as a war trophy. Aurangzeb, the Mughal Emperor,  wrote that he subdued the Malik-I-Maidan in 1686.
Well, this is the story of the 5.5 Howitzer Gun and its earlier Indian ancestor The Malil- I- Maidan..
All kudos for the Army in tackling the enemy and making maximum use of the artillery. But is not ironical that a piece of artillery is associated with a man who preached non-violence and ahimsa.
Gandhi always shunned violence. He believed in the saying, “Show your other cheek, if you get slapped on the first cheek.”  Mother Teresa too believed in peace and non-violence. The bodies of  Gandhi and Teresa were taken on  a gun carriage. Let us think if they would have approved of such an act.
Once again, let me make it clear that I have nothing against the Indian Army or any Defence or para-military force They have been doing and are doing a wonderful job, safeguarding our nation amd protecting our borders. Three cheers to them and may their tribe increase.
But what galls me is the insensitivity of the political class in making use of the armed force for civilian use. The armed forces are meant for external use and they must not be made use of for internal security and for carrying out such tasks. This is my personal opinion and I hold no prejudice against any body. 

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