September 19, 2011
School of Communication, Coimbatore
Athira Rajkamal, second-year student of MA (Communication) at the Coimbatore campus reports on an interview with Lt. Gen. (Army Commander, Retd.) K. Nagaraj, who was invited to participate in the seminar on Conflict Reporting and Peace Journalism.
Born in 1946, right after the Second World War, in Kolkatta, K. Nagaraj grew amidst the milieu of war and conflict. His parents saw the partition of East Bengal. Did all this leave a mark on his young, impressionable mind?
“Not really … my childhood was very wholesome. We grew up in a very good environment of learning. I was away from my parents at a very young age, so it was school and friends most of the time. I was aware of what was happening. General Knowledge was a strong point.”
After studying in Chennai, Nagaraj shifted to the prestigious King George’s Military School, Bangalore. After completing his school studies, he joined the National Defence Academy and subsequently, the Indian Military Academy. “It was a natural progression into the armed forces,” he reminisces.
In 1965, during the Second Indo Pak war, he was commissioned into the Infantry Division of the Indian Army. “I joined my unit and was straight in battle. Getting an opportunity to fight for the nation, the unit, for your men at such an early age was a godsend for me. I was not even twenty, just nineteen and a half.”
There were many causalities in the war. But fortunately he wasn’t injured. Even though death stared him in the face, it only increased his resolve to fight and win. He was determined to go to any lengths to protect his nation.
His remarkable contributions earned him the opportunity to become an instructor in the Defence Service Staff College, Wellington. When asked how he moulds young people, he says, “A person who joins the army is like any other ordinary person. Once someone is found fit to join the army, it is our responsibility to groom the person. There are constant tests. It’s strict.”
“Being an instructor is considered very respectable. Any good leader is a teacher. You are responsible for training those who are chosen to become even better. It is very satisfying.” Some of his students are now Generals and Commanding Officers.
During the military standoff between India and Pakistan in 2001, Nagaraj was responsible for the entire Northern Command. When asked whether there was a threat of nuclear war at that time, he says, “This is where we can examine how media comes into play. Both countries had nuclear arms. But there was no mention of this from the Indian side at all. We are capable, but also responsible. The rest of the world especially America, made a lot of noise. It might have been their attempt at defusing the situation. But I think the media ended up playing a big role in fanning the issue.”
K. Nagaraj was awarded the Param Vishist Seva Medal in 2005 in recognition of his services. He retired from active service in 2006.