I am the son of an Indian army officer and as such Indian military affairs are always close to my heart. All of us know that we are in the midst of two vicious enemies, China and Pakistan, which lose no chance to dismember us. All of us also know that it is only our military that keeps us whole.

The army is a weird profession. In almost all other professions, the fittest, the best, the most cunning rise to the top. It is in the army alone (and sometimes in the police as well) that the bravest fall by the wayside, dead or injured, whereas those who might not have exhibited such bravery climb to become the chief of the army staff or the chief of defence staff.

I will relate to you a story. In the eighties, my friend’s brother was an army captain. He had been posted with the IPKF in Sri Lanka. As the captain recounted the story, he had a fellow young officer standing beside him. The fellow officer lit a cigarette. The next time the captain turned towards his buddy, his buddy was gone. An LTTE bullet had seen the light of the cigarette and taken him out.

Now the buddy may not have committed any bravery, only a grievous error that cost him his life. But untold young Indian army officers have up their lives fighting the LTTE squarely and manfully in Sri Lanka. Some of those who are the COAS and the CDS today might have fought in Sri Lanka and might remember the courage of their fallen comrades. Perhaps they themselves didn’t exhibit the same pluck so they escaped with their lives. Perhaps they might also be aware that some of the fallen were the crème de la crème of the army and who might be more deserving than them to be the COAS or the CDS today.

Captain Vikram Batra exhibited such bravery. He got the Param Vir Chakra for it, a medal that in India is given to the bravest of the brave. I ask you, which of China or Pakistan is the most dangerous enemy for India? In the eighties, then-army chief, General K Sundarji, the last great Indian COAS in my opinion, used to say that Pakistan we could take en passant; it was China that we needed to be worried about.

Today China is flexing its muscles all over the world. The US has already admitted it to the superpower club and cavils at engaging it militarily. Only two nations seem to have the determination to take on China today. One is India and the other is Japan. Ladakh is ours. That is an indisputable fact. The Chinese know it. But they feel that by pushing us around there, they will resurrect the ghost of 1962 and scare us away from taking them on.

This time round they didn’t scare anybody. Col. B. Santosh Babu was the commanding officer of the 16 Bihar regiment in 2020. He decided that he would stop the bullying of the Chinese. The Chinese are vicious. They beat him to death with clubs and stones in fierce hand to hand combat. Another 20 Indian soldiers perished in the scuffle. But Babu didn’t take the beating lying down. He made sure that the Chinese too lost men. Only now the Chinese have publicly acknowledged four or five deaths. Unofficial estimates though put the number of Chinese dead at around 30.

The Chinese have finally realized that India is no pushover like it was in 1962. Due to the singular valour exhibited by Santosh Babu, and the firm leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chinese have pulled back from Pangong Lake. Will the Chinese encroach on our territory again? They might. But they know what to expect. Another Santosh Babu.

Santosh Babu exhibited extreme bravery, gave up his life for his country, and died a most cruel death. Is such behaviour deserving of a Param Vir Chakra or a Maha Vir Chakra? How is Babu’s valour any less than Batra’s? Batra fought a lesser enemy, Pakistan. Babu took on a much more fearsome enemy, China, and taught it a lesson that it will never forget.

Babu’s father has gone on record stating that his son should have been awarded the PVC. Babu was Telugu. KCR, the chief minister of Telangana, in one of his noblest acts, awarded Babu’s wife five crores, a job and a residential plot. Let it be noted that the central government did not give Babu’s family anything other than the departmental benefits that are usually awarded to the families of martyred soldiers.

Why such discrimination against Babu? Is it because as a Telugu he doesn’t come from a traditional martial race like the Rajputs, the Sikhs, the Gorkhas or the Garhwalis? Someone in the Defence Ministry has made a big goof-up and must rectify their error at once. Otherwise next time the Chinese encroach on our territory, there may not be another Santosh Babu to take them on.