The Brigadier In His Lair

In mid-July, 1999, Kargil was still the subject of cover stories since the war was yet to come to an end, officially. Having returned to Delhi from Kargil, I ran into an old friend from the Northeast, now posted at the army headquarters. Over the weekend, he had a startling piece of information about how the top brass had ignored early warnings from the field about possible Pakistani intrusions. Ajith (Pillai), meanwhile, had another similar piece of information from a different source. We promptly told VM (the editor) about it on July 17, a Saturday. His first reaction was: “Find the officers removed from Kargil in the early days of battle.” Thus began our hunt for Brig Surinder Singh, the officer who was removed as the commander of the Kargil-based 121 Brigade.

On Monday, both Ajith and I tapped all possible sources even as we worked simultaneously on a cover about the needs of the Indian Army for the 21st century. The search continued through Tuesday and Wednesday. On Wednesday afternoon, I followed up an earlier call to an army friend in the Northeast to check up whether he had any information on the brigadier. He informed me that Singh was in a static formation down south. So, I got down to calling area and sub-area headquarters ranging from Thiruvananthapuram to the Andamans. At Secunderabad, I hit pay dirt when the PA to the sub-area commander let it slip that Brig Surinder Singh was indeed in station but was not available on telephone since all army exchanges have barred incoming non-military calls.