Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Rare photographs, memorable documents and vignettes of the heroics of the Indian Armed Forces are the hallmarks of the Coffee Table Book "Soldiering On" released by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony to commemorate the Centenary of the Sainik Samachar here today.

'Soldiering On…' presents a panoramic view of the major events in the life of the nation and to some extent, of the world, as reported by Fauji Akhbar/Sainik Samachar since its inception. It also reflects the trials and tribulations of some of the epoch making chapters of Indian history and world history.

The book "Soldiering On..." has been divided into four chapters. The first chapter covers the trivia related to the magazine, while the second chapter covers the period from the date of its inception in 1909 till 1947 when the British soldiers left India . This portion of the book includes archival material and photographs connected with the declaration of Delhi as capital, the First World War, the early stages of formation of all the wings of Armed Forces and its major institutions, the Second World War, the partition and India's independence. Two rare pages of this chapter, -"Down the Memory Lane" stand out for their historic value. The first one titled "The Sun Set on the British Empire" depicts the lowering of the Union Jack at the Residency in Lucknow on Aug 13, 1947. This flag was not brought down for a period of 90 years since the mutiny of 1857. The flag was the pride of British rule and a symbol of their empire which never saw a sunset. The second story is about "Comrades' Party", which was held on Aug 6, 1947 in New Delhi to say goodbye to departing comrades of Indian Army who had joined Pakistan. The sentiments expressed by the two sides at that moment is a stark reminder of how the time has changed since then and the bonds that existed between the two at that time.

The next chapter of the book titled "India Arrives", is a journey of free India. The chapter captures the trials and tribulations of the nation during some of the epoch making events after independence, the heroic defence of Kashmir in 1947-48, integration of Hyderabad, Goa & Diu to India, the saga of incredible heroics of Indian troops in 1962, the rise of Indian defence industry and the surge towards self-reliance, the death of India's greatest sons like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, incredible tank battles won by India in 1965 war, 1971 victory and the liberation of Bangladesh, India's rise as a nuclear and space power, the saga of heroism atop Kargil peaks in 1999 and India's growing participation in International military exercises.

Among the many articles and photographs, some of the memorable pages include a photograph of a young boy of 'Kashmiri National Militia' saluting Pt. Nehru in Rajouri in 1948 along with a banner saying "We Will Defend Kashmir with Our Blood". There are photographs which show Indian troops manning a lonely post at Chushul and going on a patrol next to Pangong Lake in Ladakh in 1962. The book has dug out a rare photograph of Indira Gandhi donating all her 367 gms of gold jewellery to the national relief fund to support the 1962 war effort. Then there is an incredible photograph of a man holding tri-colour atop a destroyed house in Khemkaran in 1965 which saw one of the fiercest tank battle of modern times ,which India won and turned the direction of the war on its head. There are quite a few pictures of Indian troops inside Lahore district as they had relentlessly pushed forward in Punjab sector inside Pakistan. The book has also captured an incident which took place at Nathu La in 1967. The chapter has captured some momentous events of 1971 war like the documents recovered from the destroyed and sunk Pakistani submarine Ghazi from under the sea.

The book is a record of the indomitable courage and heroics of Indian Armed forces. The pictures and stories reinforce the fact that whenever any adversary has dared to mess up with India's security or territorial integrity , Indian Armed Forces have risen to the challenge and given the enemy a crushing reply. Each picture tells a thousand tales about the sacrifice made by the brave men of Indian Armed Forces and their saga of bravery.

The book features some rare pictures of Indian troops in action on foreign soil during UN peace keeping missions in Korea, Congo, Gaza , Indo-China among many such operations.

Prior to the Independence the magazine wrote with the perspective of the British ruling class. Sainik Samachar has aptly written an editorial note along with these articles to explain the British perspective to the discerning readers.

The exciting anthology doesn't end here. One gets to see some rare documents like the ones describing the hour by hour account of rebellious actions by Indian Naval Ratings in 1946 at one of the ports and an announcement about the total Indian casualties in the action. INA trials also find a place here. Then there is a moving address by Jawaharlal Nehru for the troops and people on the occasion of Diwali in which he had expressed his pain, anguish and sympathy for the troops on the Front during the tough winter conditions and hostile circumstances.

Sainik Samachar has been periodically publishing special articles by some of the most eminent authors and persons of the India in their younger days . The list includes Khushwant Singh, Mulk Raj Anand, Amita Malik, etc. Chapter 4 of the book, contains interesting articles written by these authors. The book has also traced the history, evolution and the role of the Directorate of Public Relations of Ministry of Defence , which has played an extremely important role for the Armed forces of India in war and peace.

'Sainik Samachar', started its journey one hundred years ago. On January 2, 1909, Fauji Akhbar (rechristened as Sainik Samachar on April 4, 1954) saw the light of day as an Urdu weekly to provide army personnel with "a summary of news with a bias.' Considering the level of extant technology for printing, communication network for collection of material and infrastructure for distribution of the product, it is not surprising to note that Fauji Akhbar received instant popularity among its clients as a single window for vital information that mattered to them. During its chequered history, Fauji Akhbar has travelled from Shimla (where its office was originally located whilst published from Allahabad) to Lahore, back to Shimla and then to Delhi. Its popularity was at its peak during the World War II when an overseas edition was launched from Cairo for the benefit of Indian troops deployed in far-off theaters. The print-order of Fauji Akhbar and its special bi-weekly supplement Jang Ki Khabren was in excess of three lakhs at that time. The publication of, Fauji Akhbar was suspended temporarily immediately after Independence due to sudden migration of staff and the printer. however, it bounced back with renewed vigour in no time. The magazine is now published in 13 Indian languages and English.

Overall this book is a collector's item and in a unique treasure of information, emotions and photographs of the journey of the last 100 years of India. The publication of the book is a great attempt to compile, and condense a creditable piece of document for posterity.

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