Days of our Lives!

February 25, 2009

Session by BSF officers on strategies

Filed under: I at IIM I,Top Draws — Santhosh @ 4:28 PM

To solve a problem, you should enter inside it. Only by getting to the middle of it can you see what it is and solve it.

Looks like the usual management gyaan (or globe) that one’s subjected to in a B-school, doesn’t it? Yet, not one of us uttered a murmur. Not when the ‘problem’ was a fire set by terrorists to the gates of their hideout, from behind which they were firing automatic weapons, and getting to the inside of the said problem involved armoured ‘moving bunkers’.

The gentleman talking to us was a senior officer from the Border Security Force and the session on 13th Feb was a special class on strategies for some 20 of us PGP participants here at IIM Indore. Another dozen or so BSF officers were also part of the session which was centered around Operation Gazi Baba. Gazi Baba (original name Rana Tahin Nadeem aka Shahbaz Khan) was the late leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the militant organization responsible for the attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and also implicated in the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.

They talked us through how the JeM was formed, what their operations were and what had transpired before this Operation. The operation itself involved ‘forced’ interrogation of ‘sources’, tracking the movements of his ‘associates’, Gazi Baba spending only a few hours each day at a particular hideout, reconnaissance, hidden rooms behind mirrors, trapdoors, jumps off terraces onto mattresses, evacuation of civilians, multilevel cordons and charge groups, and even a concealed infrared CCTV. About the actual details of the entire operation, for purposes of self-preservation, I’ll not repeat here. The videotaping of the session was asked to be stopped during this part and we’ve been asked to try and not talk about it. I don’t want to step out of my hostel room to find two jawans waiting for me, do I? 🙂 You can find a version of the events here though (you have to scroll down a bit).

They talked of how they strategize based on threats, constraints (time, manpower, narrow lanes where only bicycles can pass, civilians, etc in this case) weaknesses, logistics, and the lot. The success of the operation, according to another officer, was because of a focused intelligence grid, sustained interrogation, quick reaction, aggressive action, well knit cordons, and most important of all, a single command and control. Also interesting was how they take as few men on the actual charge as possible, simply because the fewer the men the lesser the chances of casualties.

Trust me, it was a little eerie to be sitting there in the darkened room, listening to words such as ‘G’ sources, civilian casualties, armoured bunkers, and of accepting one casualty per such operation. I can’t even bring myself to think about how a set of people set out on a mission, knowing that at least one of them will not make it back.

As they walked us through the powerpoint presentation (now here’s one area we MBA types are definitely better), with each point coming onto the slide with the sound of a gunshot, I suddenly realized there was now a whole new meaning to bullet points.

With the below Sanskrit quote as the background slide,

Agnih shehsam runah shesham shatruh shesham tathaiv cha punah punah pravardhet tasmaat shesham na kaaryet

another BSF officer explained how the BSF went ahead and shot down JeM’s first and second in line commanders also (Rashid Bhai and ), to leave JeM leaderless.
Agni (fire), Runa (loan), shatru (enemy), if [either] remain even in small trace[s] (shasham) [they] will grow again (punah punah pravardheta), so finish them completely (tatah shesham na karayet).

We were then shown a 11 minute video (supposedly specially made for Vajpayee, the then PM) of how the entire operation played out. They also showed us snaps of the actual hideout where the operation took place, the dead terrorists in all their gore and blood, and how they identified one of the dead as Gazi Baba (he looked like some next door uncle, as compared to the photos of him with the turban and beard). Just to remind us of how real life resembles reel life, there was a photo of a Delhi map on one of the walls with colored pins stuck on it to indicate God knows what. When they showed us photos of the weapons used by both sides, it was our turn to make their jaws drop by identifying most of them. Years of Max Payne and Counter Strike do serve some use every now and then, you know.

The other BSF officers – there were some 10-12 of them in all – also joined in for the Q&A session that followed. When someone asked about the Indo-Pak borders, we got a sense of what it must be like to stand guard at a nation’s borders, when the answers ranged from -50°C temperatures to 120 feet of snow. However, it was also while on this topic that we realized why exactly we as a nation are plagued by issues prennially. The BSF and the Indian Army jointly guard the Indo-Pak borders and I would like to think they do work it out between them on who does what and where. However, the BSF officers started blaming the Indian Army, whom they sarcastically refer to as the Big Brother, of being inefficient because of which the BSF also have to pay a price. Yes, there may be issues between the two services, and maybe the Indian Army are at fault, but there is a time and place to show the bad blood, and that is definitely not in a public forum of civilians.

For the expected question on what role the media plays in such operations, they spoke of appointing dedicated media interfacing personnel, common understandings and how they promise the media exclusive whole stories just to get them off their backs. They also spoke about how terrorism is an industry in Kashmir and how many more years may be needed for permanent peace. It was also eerily funny to hear them say how the Indian and Pakistani forces mutually decide to retreat from the borders for the peak of the winter and when the Indian forces come back they find Pakistan forces occupying Indian territory, claiming this is where they were previously also. Talk about neighbourly squabbles!

When someone asked about the porous Bangladesh border, the answers, as expected, were not simple and involved geographic, ethnic and economic issues. The many rivers, streams and tributaries in the region change course often over the year and there are large stretches of barren land which in spite of lighting, partial fencing, regular watchers and tactical shifts just cannot be monitored 24*7. They showed us photos of the Bangladesh border and it was a strange sight to see border markers (3 feet high pyramids, and called ‘pillars’) between houses and in the middle of cultivated land. I mean, one can wake up in Bangladesh and cross the street to his aunt’s in India for a cup of coffee. Also, it being the subcontinent, there were kids playing cricket with the border pillars as stumps. Now, who says India don’t host the Bangladesh cricket team often enough?



  1. Great post.

    Comment by Sanket — February 25, 2009 @ 10:35 PM | Reply

  2. samaskrutha gyaanavaanaha.h?

    Comment by Anonymous — February 26, 2009 @ 1:10 PM | Reply

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