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Bipin was the rarest of the rare, an amalgam of hard work and diligence, professional competence and intellect, courage of conviction and forthrightness. Even as a youngster, Bipin was up-front; the epithet that youngsters must be seen and not heard, was not coined for him. He always said his mind, clearly, lucidly, without mincing words and unmindful of consequences. That endearing quality made him a leader from the beginning of his career, a born leader so as to say, with predictions that ‘he will go far’. Far he went, as far as he could, the Chief of Army Staff and then first Chief of Defence Staff.
Behind the apparent flippancy, and seeming shooting from the hip as critiques tended to say, was a very astute mind that had mulled the issues, sounded them off colleagues and friends and then articulated as if impromptu! That by itself was an art so well developed by Bipin. It is not that he was unmindful of the social media critique; Bipin’s research was immaculate and courage of conviction was legendary. Negative thoughts rarely crossed his portal, for he was destined to initiate the change and get it implemented.
Once, when as a Sector Commander he recommended a Commanding Officer of a RR Unit in Sopore for an award, it was because he had ensured long-term peace in the disturbed area, without firing a shot! That was Bipin’s vision on counter-insurgency! In his support for Major Gogoi, or his opinion on stone pelters or against those who had streaks of dishonesty, Bipin was categoric and held on to his opinion, despite the adverse television debates and social media. What is wrong in calling China a threat clearly, when the Nation believes China is a Threat! That was his immense strength and courage of conviction.
His humane qualities were par excellence; there was no empty rhetoric of nani bhaat khayo (son, have you had food!). There was the redefinition of welfare in the Army. His mark is far wide, in improving living conditions of the troops and pushing for better maintenance of habitat. His interaction with troops was sans any formality, he just became part of them, a very endearing quality.
We lost Madhulika too! From April 1986, when Madhu and Bipin were married at Ashoka Road in Central Delhi, Madhu has retained her cheerful and ebullient demeanour. Her friendliness was evident by her very large repertoire of great friends, from school to college and service life, and the cheerfulness and informality that she brought to any gathering. With Bipin devoted full time to profession in counter insurgency in Kashmir and Northeast, Madhu was permanent presence in Arun Vihar Noida, bringing up Kritika and Tarini, and looking after Gen and Mrs LS Rawat, her in-laws.
Bipin left a very diverse imprint, an immense legacy, though a large list of unfinished, visionary work that would transform the Armed Forces. With an absolute clear vision of what he wanted for the Services, and how he could propel towards implementing it! In his tragic passing away, the outpouring of grief among the peoples of India and internationally showed his immense contribution. India lost a great patriot, a down to earth soldier and a strategic visionary, leaving behind an immense void! Gen Bipin Rawat literally left us wearing his boots and taking strong strides, and that was how he would have wished too! Unfortunately went too early; the best salutation would be that some of his visions fructify, even before he would have officially retired. Colonels of 11GR -Lt Gen Sushil Kumar, Gen Bipin Rawat, Lt Gen JBS Yadava and Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma
In the demise of Bipin and Madhu, the Regiment lost a piece of its soul. Wherever you are, dearest friends, remain cheerful and happy together in the world yonder, as you were in life.
Author– Lt Gen (Dr) Rakesh Sharma PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd) is an infantry officer commissioned in Gorkha Rifles in 1977, with career span of forty years. He has had extensive operational experience in Jammu and Kashmir, North East and on the Western Borders. The officer had trained the Botswana Army for three years in Africa, and attended the National War College at Abuja, Nigeria. Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma had attended the NDC at New Delhi and was Research Fellow at Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. He has done PhD in Defence Studies. General Rakesh Sharma commanded the Fire and Fury Corps in Ladakh responsible for Kargil, Siachin Glacier and Eastern Ladakh – facing both Pakistan and China.The General was the Adjutant General of the Indian Army responsible for the HR Management and superannuated in 2017। Lt Gen Rakesh Sharma was Chief Defence Banking Advisor with the Punjab National bank. He is currently DISTINGUISHED FELLOW with the Centre for Land Warfare Studies.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation that he belongs to or of the STRIVE.
The article was published in Salute on 25 Jan 2022. https://salute.co.in/author/lt-gen-rakesh-sharma/