Friday, 27 May 2011

Ghost Of INS Khukri Comes Back To Haunt Indian Navy

The Navy is distancing itself from the book Transition to Triumph, written by Vice-Admiral G M Hiranandani (retd), former head of the Naval History Project, which has been acknowledged as the official version of 1971 Indo-Pak War. Recently, questions have been raised over the authenticity of some facts in the chapter ‘Sinking of Khukri’ in the book.

In a reply, dated January 21, to an RTI application filed by Cdr (retd) B Bhushan, the Navy has said that the views and interpretation of facts in the book are of the author, and do not reflect those of the government or the Navy.

The Navy has confirmed that Vice-Admiral Hiranandani was “requested by IHQ MoD (N) (Integrated Headquarters, Ministry of Defence, Navy) to write the history of the Indian Navy in an individual capacity which was examined at IHQ MoD (N) that time”.

The book was sponsored and published by the Navy, and is described as a published history of the Navy on its official website, indiannavy.nic.in.

The Khukri sank off the Kathiwar coast off Diu Head on the night of December 9, 1971, after torpedo hits from the Pakistani submarine Hangor. Only 67 men on board survived; 176 sailors and 18 officers, including the captain of the ship, were killed.

Cdr (retd) Bhushan investigated the incident in 1972, and his report was declassified in 2005. He maintains that the INS Kirpan, which was the Khukri’s consort, had fled from scene of action, and gallantry awards were given fraudulently to the commanding officers of both ships.

According to Bhushan, his report was not perused before the ‘Sinking of Khukri’ was written about in Transition to Triumph. He claims that the chapter contains 21 falsehoods, including undeserved accolades for the commanding officer of the Kirpan.

In its reply to the RTI application, the Navy has maintained that it considers Bhushan’s version of the sinking of the Khukri incorrect. In its resumed hearing today, the Chandigarh Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) took the Navy’s reply on record.

The Navy has also sought the dismissal of a petition seeking an inquiry into the sinking filed by Chanchal Singh Gill, the Khukri’s Shipwright Artificer and a survivor of the attack on the ship. Gill had called for “a comprehensive inquiry” and an audit of the gallantry awards conferred on the officers and sailors of the Khukri and Kirpan.

The Navy has conceded that Gill was on the Khukri at the time, but argued that he started collecting information about the incident only in 2003, 32 years later. “The hidden motive of the applicant for re-opening the case at this stage has not been disclosed,” said the reply.