One of Indian Army's most decorated officers, Colonel Saurabh Singh Shekhawat, who had accused top Army brass, including two former Army chiefs, of victimising him resulting in denial of promotion, has finally got his due. Forty-eight-year-old Shekhawat has been promoted to the rank of a brigadier after years of wait.

Shekhawat, an officer with the Indian Army’s elite special forces, has three gallantry awards to his credit — Kirti Chakra, Shaurya Chakra and Sena Medal — and a Vishisht Seva Medal for distinguished service. Two years ago, in a video that went viral, he had talked about special forces being his “religion and caste".

In 2017, in his complaint to the defence ministry and Army headquarters, Shekhawat had alleged that he was “systematically victimised” by two former chiefs, General Bikram Singh and General Dalbir Singh, and Lieutenant General Abhay Krishna (who retired as Army commander), for speaking up against a botched up intelligence operation in Assam in December 2011.

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The officer had alleged that ratings of his annual confidential reports (ACR) were repeatedly brought down with "mala fide intentions" to prevent him from getting promoted. An officer's promotion is based on the ratings given to him/her in the confidential report by the immediate superior officer.

"I am forced, with distress and disillusionment, to state that despite being the highest decorated serving officer in the Army with an unblemished operational profile, I have been systematically victimised by the officers at the highest level," Shekhawat had stated in his complaint.

He added that this victimisation led to him receiving lukewarm ACRs (annual confidential report), after two outstanding ARCs in command of 21 Para (SF).

"The damage has been done in such a manner that even my complaint becomes untenable and I do not get my next rank," Shekhawat had pointed out. He further stated that the trigger for victimisation was the botched up operation by 3 Corps Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (CISU) in Jorhat, near his unit location, which was later termed dacoity by the police.

In his complaint, Shekhawat stated that the incident becomes the biggest controversy of the time with General V.K. Singh, then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), placing General Dalbir Singh Suhag under discipline and vigilance ban for his inaction on this "botched up operation."

He added that instead of going against the erring officer that included commanding officer of the Intelligence Unit Col Sri Kumar and Captain Rubina, the officer who led the raid, it was termed as conspiracy by General V.K. Singh.

The officer had also alleged that although he played a no role in mudslinging, attempts were made to defame him. He said it was learnt that directions were given to his senior officers to 'fix' him.

He further alleged that when General Dalbir Singh took over as the Army chief, the same vindictive attitude continued by top Army brass and that he was continuously harmed to "ensure that I do not make it to Higher Command Course and finally don't get my next rank."

He also wrote that despite the damage done to his ACRs, his name was appeared for higher air command course due to quantified system of selection for the course where gallantry awards and field services were given marks towards selections.

Shekhawat stated that General Dalbir Singh was surprised to know about the development. The officer speculated that probably as consequence, a proposal was mooted to change the quantification system of selection in higher command courses and also for the promotions.

"Since 2014, the weightage of gallantry awards and field service has been removed for consideration for higher command courses and probably also for promotion boards," Shekhwat pointed out.

He also alleged that during his posting in Srinagar, his confidential report was downgraded by his immediate bosses, and in return, he claimed that, the general officer commanding was posted to an office close to the chief of Army staff.

Colonel Shekhawat, an avid mountaineer and who has conquered the Mount Everest thrice, was dropped as the leader of an Indian Army expedition to Mount Everest in 2016. He blamed the Army Chief Dalbir Singh for it.

When The WEEK asked the Army headquarters about reason for officer's promotion, it said that legal complaints and promotions are two different matter. "An officer can be promoted even if he or she has filed a legal complaint," an Army official said.