General Bipin Rawat: Another Son Uttarakhand Lost Before He Could Return To His Ancestral Village

by Sumati Mehrishi - Dec 9, 2021 05:29 PM +05:30 IST
General Bipin Rawat: Another Son Uttarakhand Lost Before He Could Return To His Ancestral VillageChief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.
Snapshot
  • A hero to the youth in Uttarakhand, General Rawat was hoping to return home in more than one way. But it was not to be.

The Uttarakhand government has declared a three-day state mourning for Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat who died in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu on 8 December. His wife Madhulika Rawat was also killed in the crash. Brave men from the Indian Air Force and the Indian Army also lost their lives in the crash.

The Indian Military Academy cancelled the commandant's parade, which is the final rehearsal parade ahead of the final passing out parade. It was scheduled to take place today (9 December). Col Himani Pant has been quoted as saying by ANI that the decision regarding holding the passing out parade will be taken after receiving instructions from the Army Headquarters.

Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said Uttarakhand will always be proud of its son. General Bipin Rawat came from Saina village in Pauri. It was from this village, he went to Dehradun for his schooling at Cambrian Hall (before heading to St Edward School, Shimla, and the
National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla). He later returned to the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, to become the soldier who would serve and lead in combat terrains in the decades that followed.

He would also be known for his valour and experiences in different combat zones, for being a decorated military officer, for taking stringent steps against Pakistan, for managing crisis along the border with China, for transforming India's steps taken towards aatmanirbharta and for the integration of the strengths and capabilities of the armed forces. Youth in Uttarakhand, especially in Uttarkashi, where his maternal home is situated and in Pauri, his paternal home, looked up to him as their hero.

In September this year, General Rawat met Dhami where he reportedly discussed issues related to the state. Over the years of his tenure as chief minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat, who hails from Pauri, had several interactions with General Rawat. Trivendra Singh Rawat said he was in shock at the demise of General Rawat. For these two leaders, the interactions with India's CDS also meant guidance from India's senior most official in the Indian Army. General Rawat was often described as a "simple man".

In 2019, when General Rawat accompanied by his wife Madhulika Rawat visited the Shri Badrinath Dham to offer prayers, the occasion came across as the homecoming of a son. He was welcomed warmly by the pujaris and he performed the rituals, prayed for the well-being of the world and the country's national security, as the pujaris later informed the local media. "The world shall see India achieve great heights in the future," was a comment from one of the pujaris.

It indicated the assurance that General Rawat's visit to the Badrinath Dham and Shri Kedarnath Dham brought to the nation loving and patriotic people of Uttarakhand. Harsil in Uttarakhand had a special place in General Rawat's journey through the intertwined sentiment of the Gorkha Rifles Battalion.

Uttarakhand also knows him as the son of Lieutenant General (Retd) Laxman Singh Rawat. Saina is where his paternal uncle Bharat Singh Rawat lives in their ancestral home. His uncles, too, have served the army. In 2016, the village celebrated when General Bipin Rawat was named the Army Chief. The village celebrated when the father-son duo from Pauri rose through the ranks — father to become the deputy chief and decades later, the son to become the Army Chief.

General Rawat was the third generation representative of the culture — the culture of serving the Indian Army — embedded in the roots and villages of Garhwal and Kumaon regions in Uttarakhand. The hill state was hoping to see him return home in more than one way.

General Rawat was, as it has been reported and is also known to the people of the state, wanting to build a home in the state. This one aspect is making people of the state see his untimely death as a personal loss. General Rawat building a home in Uttarakhand, which was
already home to his maternal and paternal sides of the family, would mean that the state would have got the guidance and insights of this brave soldier who catapulted the integration and coordination of India's military strengths.

It would mean that the state would one day become home to the ‘rann pitamaha’, as this author would like to call him, to see him provide motivation and mental strength to the law makers and the youth. The break in the journey homeward is a loss to the state. Trivendra Singh Rawat was fortunate to have interacted with General Rawat in the border state. Uttarakhand has seen tensions on the border it shares with China and Nepal. The Centre and state governments had the support of a man who would be discussing ways to check migration from Uttarakhand.

His lectures, words, hard hitting, straight, piercing, have ignited minds. Uttarakhand stood to benefit from these in the years to come. If even a fraction of this stayed in Uttarakhand with him in the coming years, it would perhaps have gone into helping Narendra Modi and the
state government in stemming outmigration, eventually. General Rawat pushed for indigenisation via aatmanirbharta in the defence sector, knew the fronts, felt the roots, touched hearts, new frontiers of the second line of defence — the people of the border state. What more could Uttarakhand have asked for over his homecoming and home building here?

Dehradun as the power centre of institutions, research and development dedicated to India's defence strengths, had the potential to become his autumn phase of life-study room for perpetuity.

General Rawat, Trivendra Singh Rawat has been quoted saying in a report, inaugurated a walnut nursery in Malari in Uttarakhand. General Rawat, a true nation builder with roots and heart in Uttarakhand, worked to stem outmigration through creation of livelihood. Trivendra Singh Rawat and General Rawat would have made a formidable team to tackle outmigration. Interruptions came. General Rawat would have then guided Dhami. It was not to be.

Uttarakhandis know and feel the pride and strength in the presence of soldiers who have fought for the nation and contributed to the state. The meaning of the presence of Major General Bhuwan Chandra Khanduri (Retd) in Dehradun, even though he is not too active in politics and
public life, is known to locals here. Accepting reality is a longer process for civilians than it perhaps is for soldiers. How intensely General Rawat would have been valued in the state can now be felt in the void the abrupt turn of events has brought.

General Rawat wanted a road built in his ancestral village for better access. He had plans to renovate his existing house in Dehradun. It takes anyone in Uttarakhand a moment to imagine what Kotdwar, where the fraternity of ex-servicemen is strong, would stumble upon in terms of motivation, opportunity, building force for Kotdwar, Yamkeshwar and Pauri, to begin with.

The Modi government's infrastructure push in Uttarakhand, especially that which ran towards the veins and arteries leading to the borders, ran alongside the work and vision of General Rawat. Direction and determination to make Uttarakhand stronger for the Armed Forces and the borders have made themselves felt. The small road to his village that he wanted built was a tiny fraction strip of his chest-tough dreams for India.

The Gorkha, the Garhwali, Bharatiya. Uttarakhand has lost a son who reflected these identities as a soldier who led from the front, who led from top, with indomitable courage, in keeping pace with new directions and caution. The road to his village will complete itself for the son who wanted to have a home in the ancestral village, but could not.

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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