Major Singh's Secret | A Short Story by Dr Ratan Lal Basu | WBRi Kolkata Bangla Radio Online Magazine

Short Story by Dr R L Basu

Everybody gathered around major Singh and started showering kudos. He had done a remarkable job, to drive away the terrorists from the jungles and difficult hill tracts to the foreign land and the borders have been sealed so that the area is now free from the long lasting menace. All the earlier missions had failed miserably and during the last few months, the terrorists had stepped up the intensity of their heinous activities  murder of political men, looting, robbery, abduction of government officials, attacking the police stations, laying mines on the roads and similar anarchic activities terrorizing the inhabitants and causing headache to the administration. The terrain bordering a foreign country and infested with deep forest and inaccessible hilly tracts made the operations difficult. After several abortive police operations the authorities at last find no alternative but to resort to military action and Colonel Srinivasan was entrusted with the task of organizing the operation.

The colonel looked into the pros and cons of the matter and the name of Major Sukhbinder Sing suddenly occurred to his mind. He knew this daring and cold headed officer since the latter was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Indian Army. Singhs father was a habildar in the Indian Army from Patiala, Punjab. His lone son Sukhbindar was a good student and aspired to join the Indian Administrative Service. But the sad death of his father in war made him change his mind and he joined the army as a second lieutenant. He attracted the notice of Colonel Srinivasan in connection with a terrorist case. The terrorists had hold hostage of a school bus with teachers and students and demanded release of their notorious gang mates in jail in exchange for the lives of the students and teachers. Sukhbinder had then just got training in commando action and he volunteered to rescue the hostages. He entered the bus under the guise of a journalist, killed the terrorists single handed and rescued the bus. Thereafter he accomplished successfully many similar praiseworthy operations. So the colonel thought him to be the right person to handle the terrorists in the hilly forests. Singh has kept his expectation by meticulous planning and rapid action with a team of commandos. The terrorists have either been killed or fled to the foreign country and as the border is now well guarded there is very little likelihood of revival of terrorism in the region. So the colonel promptly recommended the name of Singh to the higher authorities for a prestigious military award and threw a party to honor the valiant and competent major.

Everyone was happy in the victory celebration and praising Singh but the major looked morose. The colonel noticed the gloominess of the major and took him aside. Whats wrong with you, you look so gloomy on this day of gaiety? The colonel queried.

The major muttered in a sad tone, sir I failed to protect the life of Mr. Das because of my slackness at the last moment.

Its nothing in such a risky operation, the colonel said in a consolatory voice.
Still, I cannot forgive myself for failing to keep my vow to the man who had counted so much on me.

Returning to his quarter the major tried to recollect the incidents from the very beginning and discover the lacunae in his operation. Was it defective planning or lack of alertness on my part? He thought to himself. All the commandoes had followed my guidelines to the letter and if anybody is to be blamed, its none but me. Its, however, no use crying over spilt milk, but I ought to have lessons from this failure so that the mistake is not repeated ever again. He tried to call up everything from the very beginning.

Singh had just finished relaxing in the evening when the telephone rang and he heard the placid voice of Colonel Srinivasan requesting Singh to call at his residence for some serious discussion, and to be prepared to have dinner there as the discussion may run late into the night.

Singhs heart leapt up to learn about the decision of the colonel to entrust him with the task of an adventurous operation. He had discussion with the colonel for a long time and he immediately went through the file and maps relevant to the intricate operation in the terrorist infested hilly forest. He assured the colonel that within a week he would submit his detailed plan. He worked hard for the next few days and when he presented the broad outline of the plan to the colonel the latter approved it without any modification.  

In the mean time terrorists threatened Mr. Das, a respectable and popular businessman, to assassinate him. The businessman immediately contacted the major and handed him over the letter of the terrorists. The major assured the businessman that he would provide the latter adequate security and did not lose time to send commandoes to guard the house of the businessman. All fears from the mind of Das had gone now as he had heard about the efficiency of the intrepid major.

Before giving the plan a concrete and final shape, the major needed some further information lacking in the files containing the detailed report of the earlier futile operations and the present position. So he contacted a journalist friend, Mr. Banerjee who was well versed with the history of extremist activities and sought his help in this regard.
Banerjee gave him detailed and secret reports on the modus operandi of the terrorists in this region, the background of some terrorist gang leaders and also of Mr. Das.

Many earlier operations had failed because of lack of an immaculate full proof plan. For this it was needed to study the region and check up the approaches to the hideouts of the terrorists in hilly jungles. Major Singh first studied the detailed aerial map of the region and surveyed the region himself accompanied by a few commandoes well versed with operation in such difficult terrain. The approach to the foreign country is a pass about hundred meters wide between two stiff hills. The entire pass about five kilometers to the no mans land is covered with jungles and scattered boulders cut at several places by narrow rivers. After the terrorists are driven away into the foreign country, the jungles at the approach to the pass and inside the pass, should be cleared at places and guards posted to seal the border. The jungle at the mouth of the pass has widened and sloped gently to the plane and the radius of the semi circular patch of forest here is about five hundred meters.   
The forest is deep here and strewn with scattered boulders. The forest thereafter has become thin and entered into the habitations of hill people residing there. In fact the forest has spread further down the plane and thereafter been cleared for establishing villages by the hardy people migrated from the foreign country. They are mostly cultivators and have now become citizens of the country. The patches of forest that have run down into the forest give the terrorists opportunity to enter the habitations and escape into the jungles whenever chased by police or military forces.  Moreover it has been apprehended that there are sympathizers among the villagers who give shelter to the terrorists.

Major Sing drew out the first part of his plan which would consist of attacking and chasing out the terrorists into the jungles and thereafter invading the jungle with a well coordinated chain of commandoes encircling the outer rim of the forest and it would close in with a rapid onslaught until all the extremists are driven away into the hilly part of the forest. The third part would consist of operation in the hilly tract of the jungle. The second and third phases of the operation would need the assistance of helicopters. A second wing of operation should be from within the forest and the forces there in would join the outer rim as the latter close in. The three phases of operation should follow each other in quick succession so that the terrorists do not get any respite to reorganize. The entire operation should be perfectly in accordance with plan and should be very fast.  

After completing his plan and checking up several times, discussing with core commando forces and making necessary modification Major Singh gave all of them a copy  of the scheme and started thinking of the next tasks which consisted of mobilizing adequate forces, arms, ammunitions and other supplies.

The operation started at day break and the forces of Major Singh advanced like lightning allowing the terrorists to put up very little resistance and by midday the villages and the patches into the villages were completely cleared. The second phase started at noon and by evening the jungles at the planes came under the complete control of the commandoes. About fifty terrorists were killed in confrontation, the same number of wounded were captured alive and the rest escaped into the hilly tract of the forest and many among them were presumed to be wounded. The loss of the combat forces, on the other hand, was minimal  none killed and thirty wounded, only five of whom seriously. Several mines were detonated and a vast amount of arms and ammunitions along with a rocket launcher were captured in course of the operation. The third phase could not be started before day break. But the major and his forces were happy that the operation had worked according to plan and with no loss of life. A narrow projection of the hilly tract at the eastern flank has run down to the habitations and this tract was yet to be under their control and the major apprehended that some terrorists might again sneak into the villages unless this tract is well guarded from all the three sides which were under their control. The most problematic aspect was that the house of Mr. Das is just beneath the end of this hilly tract and the hundred meters from his house to the rise of the tract is covered with bushes and cluster of trees. So the major posted special guards in this area so that no terrorist could sneak in and attack Mr. Dass house.

Completing all these preparations immaculately, sending the wounded soldiers and captives to the military cantonment, major Singh felt relieved and sitting on a stone slab under a tree gulped a bottle of rum raw and lighted a cheroot. Every thing had gone according to plan and with minimum possible casualties. In fact, the terrorists could hardly apprehend the blitzkrieg and were caught completely unawares. The entire operation was prepared so secretly and in such a short span of time that the informers of the terrorists in the village could not guess anything either. The rest of the forces were also relaxing over drinks and gossiping joyously.

Major Singh felt an inner comfort and blew out a ring of smoke through the nostrils. All of a sudden his sixth sense alerted him and looking at the back of the house of Mr. Das he noticed some movements and his pistol instantly killed the terrorist hiding inside a bush. At the sound of the pistol other commandoes rushed into the bushes and killed the remaining terrorists who had sneaked in taking advantage of their slackness. The major realized that for the rest of the night they had to be alert all the time and no relaxation or sleep could be afforded.      

Being goaded by his sixth sense major Singh promptly entered the room of Das who greeted the major ebulliently and shook hands with him. He could not find words to express his gratitude to Singh for whom alone his life was saved. Now the room and the house were completely free from the terrorist menace, the major got reassured. The last threat because of their mistake had been corrected and it was his sixth sense that helped. He had seen this several times earlier and could not explain the mystery of the defense mechanism of our body and mind. He looked out the open window. The courtyard below was free from trees and there was no possibility that any extremist would sneak in under the cover of trees and bushes. Still he told Mr. Das to shut down the window. He was now in a relaxed mood, leaned his rifle at the corner of the room and sat on a chair near the sofa on which Das was seated. Now he talked in detail with Mr. Das about the operation and Das looked up with admiring eyes. He picked up his rifle and moved for the door after saying good night. Then something entered whizzing through the window and Singh jumped down the stairwell and lost sense. The injury in his head was not serious and scanning reports said that there was no hemorrhage. It was his sixth sense again that had saved his life from the grenade that had destroyed Dass room shattering his body.  But how could a terrorist be there to toss the grenade in after so meticulous operation. What was the lacuna in his plan and operation that a terrorist could sneak in at the last moment and besmirch such a grand operation? Was there any secret that he could remember now? Major Singh racked his brain and his thoughts became muddled.

The next days operation had to be done under the leadership of Captain Mukherje and the operation was flawless and without any casualties. In fact most of the terrorists had already fled to the foreign country and in a day the entire pass up to the no mans land came under the control of the army.

The victory celebrations were held after a week when the major was fully recovered from his injuries.

Singh returned to his quarter after the victory celebration trying hard all the way to discover how the mishap had happened in spite of all his precautions. Upon returning home he opened the cupboard at the end of his room and took out the cover file containing report on Mr. Das given by his journalist friend. He now started reading it between the lines  a strange revelation indeed about a well established dignified gentleman. He had read it before his operation but only a cursory glance and had therefore forgotten everything.

Mr. Das had entered politics as a student union leader. He was neither a theoretician nor a good orator, but his tough and cruel nature gave him some importance in the political party to which the student union was affiliated. Before completion of graduation he was arrested after he had raped and killed the daughter of a poor cobbler in southern Bengal. He was however released as no evidence could be found to substantiate the crime in the law court. The political party had already offered bribe to the cobbler to hush up the case. The cobbler knew that he had but two alternatives  to accept the bribe or be killed and logically he accepted the second alternative. The leaders of the political party admonished Das for committing such silly crimes and warned that if he does similar things next time without prior consultation with them, they would not come to his rescue. Thereafter, however, his importance to the party increased considerably. Soon, he was entrusted with the task of organizing the black-dragon gang, the secret army of the political party, in the locality by mobilizing die-hard criminals, rural vagabonds and poverty stricken landless laborers and the party arranged for their training in use of modern arms, setting up mines and various illegal activities like booth capturing in elections, smuggling and trafficking in drug and women.   

So far the political party had not much footing in the area and in most of the elections the security deposits of their candidates had been forfeited. Now some cunning leaders devised a means to increase the influence of their party by muscle power alone as they had realized that they would never be able to attract the voters in their favor and the well organized gang, the black-dragon came to their help in this regard. The black-dragons started invading rural areas ruthlessly, killing indiscriminately, looting and raping women of all ages. Beautiful young females were captured in course of the attacks and sent to the leaders to swell the ranks of their harems and many were sold to international whore traffickers at high prices. The dragon operators also got a sumptuous share of the booty of money, ornaments and women most of whom were gang-raped and killed. The political party used to bribe the police and thereby provided cover to the dragon operators against law.  Mr. Das, being a ruthless and intelligent schemer to invade the villages rose rapidly in the ranks of the party.

One of the operations of Mr. Das was spectacular. Once, a few leaders had attended an election meeting at a girls school in a village under their control. Many students and teachers attended the meeting and a few beautiful ones among them had caught the lustful eyes of the leaders. After the meeting, they took Mr. Das aside and asked if he knew these females and the later nodded affirmation. The leaders then asked him to pick up these beauties and send to their harems. Mr. Das was now in a fix. He told them that this was a village under their command and asked what would be his excuse to initiate attack on such a village. One of the leaders then said laughing, You can do it easily if you have any intelligence at all. Under the cover of night remove all our flags from the village and replace them by the flag of a rival party and then everything would be cake walk. Thereafter it was not all difficult for the dragons to accomplish the task.  

After being wounded severely by the arrow of a tribal, he wanted to eschew the front line activities. He had already made much money and sent his son to USA for higher studies. He proposed to the party leaders the name of another young tough boy to succeed him as the leader of the dragons in the locality and let Mr. Das resign to a peaceful life and help the party with his money and propaganda network. The party leaders readily accepted his proposal and Mr. Das got settled at North Bengal where nobody knew him and started business as a timber merchant. He undertook some philanthropic works and soon became popular in the locality. Now the major came upon a few highlighted liners in the report which he could remember as they had been engraved deeply in his mind at the first reading before the operation. The report read:

By good luck I have come upon the note left by a man of Dass gang before he had committed suicide. At the end of a successful capture of a village, Das had entered the house of a bank clerk to get some drinking water and he got bewitched by the voluptuous wife of he man. Then he shot the man dead right away and tried to rape the lady, but he was hit on the head with a scale by her four year old child. At this he got furious and flung the boy on the cement floor and instantly the childs scull was smashed, scattering brains all round the floor. Thereafter Das raped the senseless woman and stifled her to death. The man who was waiting outside for Mr. Das, hastened in to hear the scream of the child and the ghastly scene made him crazy. He ran away from the spot and committed suicide after returning home. Fortunately I had arrived at his house before the police came and could pick up his note that describes the horrible act of Das.

The major need not read these lines again as they were deeply engraved in his mind and he felt an inner comfort to discover the secret of the grenade that confirmed that his plan and operation were flawless.  

Dr.Ratan Lal BasuRatan Lal Basu, Ph.D. (Economics) is an ex-Reader in Economics and Teacher-in-Charge, Bhairab Ganguly College, Kolkata, India. Dr. Basu has written & edited several books on Economics.

Check out WBRi Online Bookstore Recommendatiuons on books by Dr. Ratan Lal Basu: CLICK HERE >

Apart from his passion for the field of Economics, Dr. Basu's other interests are Boxing & Small Game Hunting (gave up the nasty games during college life); Swimming in Turbulent Rivers (physically impossible now); Himalayan Treks, Adventure in Dense Forests, Singing Tagore Songs and also writing travelogues and fiction in Bengali and English.

Dr. Ratan Lal Basu can be reached at rlbasu [at]

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