A different “surgical strike”


Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi puts up a spirited fight against the Big C, and once again comes out a winner.

The first two surgical strikes across the Line of Control (LoC) were launched for electoral reasons but successfully presented by India as “change and assertion of political will” by the political leadership of India to signal a major policy change of a resurgent India, which would no longer accept passivity in its dealings with rogue states!

The third surgical strike, launched on 11 September 2019, was neither of the above and it was not even across the LoC. However, it was the real macoy (US metaphor meaning “the real thing” or “the genuine article”).

Following the receipt of biopsy report of a molar site of mine, which used the word ‘carcinoma’, the ball was set rolling by the competent military doctors of Command Hospital, Chandimandir and the earliest date was set for the “surgical strike”. The aim was not to scare or neutralise the vermin, which had managed to penetrate and then started spread with impunity in my mouth; but to pull them out from their layers; whining, screeching or screaming; and destroy them for good. There was no question of any corner being given or taken; as these venal agents known generically as cancer and colloquially as The Big C, did not deserve any pity or remorse from anyone!

Having fought in two wars and losing a leg in the India-Pakistan War of 1965, I was not at all perturbed. After all I was now in my 54th year of not just living with an artificial leg but soldiering and competing with my peers. I had soldiered on in my battalion and regiment – First Battalion– The Maratha Light Infantry (JANGI PALTAN), had surprised the skeptics by competing and mostly beating my peers and comrades in both physical and other spheres. This was the result of a combination of factors, including doggedness, persistence, hard work, zest for life and support of family and friends.

The result was that from a captain with four-year service, I had advanced in the Indian Army to nearly the top of the steep pyramid, when I had superannuated as the Vice Chief of the formidable Indian Army. Earlier, I had commanded two Commands – Army Training Command and Western Command; had been the DGMO and GOC of a Strike Corps and had converted the Mechanised Division to an Armoured Division, despite being an infantry officer.

Unlike other segments of the Indian Government’s officialdom, the army does not give concessions or handicaps for physical or other disabilities; it only recognises professional ability and merit.

Even before the ‘surgical strike’ was launched, I had taken the news with my usual equanimity and resolved to fight it; whether it was the Big C or a humble Small C. My family and friends supported me fully. I also had full faith in our military doctors, who are professional, experienced and highly dedicated.

The stage was set when the Team Leader gave his assent. He is a highly professional warrior, who has notched up many successes in his military career in the surgical arena. The team consisted of a diverse set of professional men and women from various medical, dental and other disciplines. Technical and intelligence assistance was provided by another set of professionals, specially chosen for their abilities. Modern machines of the electronic kind, along with conventional ones, supplanted by human expertise were successfully used in collecting a variety of data that was ‘de rigueur’ for such a precise strike. Every segment of the team was professional; political honchos, and pseudo security experts had no part to play.

The entry points for the “surgical strike” were chosen by the Team Leader, with no embargoes like not crossing the equivalent of the LoC or hitting only peripheral targets, or minimum time for lingering in the target area. These were chosen with care, ensuring that no vermin escape. Thus, the team had a free hand in all aspects of the strike. No prisoners were to be taken, as these vermin had the expertise of multiplying even in captivity. It was also ensured that the site and surrounding areas were fully sanitised before suturing them up, so that no vermin of any type could grow in that environment again.

The team went through all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), checked their special equipment, checked me thoroughly during the pre-operation phase and was ready for the surgical strike.

They knew that the aim was complete elimination of the vermin Publicity was not on the agenda at all, but it needs to be highlighted that science and technology can do wonders for restoring physical and mental peace; and good health of individuals.

The “surgical strike” was over within five hours, with all the vermin destroyed. However, confirmation came only after a thorough and full analysis, for which inputs were provided while the strike was still underway. Preparing a report of this nature takes time, as the process is long and time consuming. It is only after the report is finalised that the team decides on future actions to be taken.

The detailed report was positive all the way, except for a small spot that seemed suspect. Phase II commenced a week later with radiation therapy to complete the process.

Very few people knew about the ‘strike’, as it was kept fully under wraps to discourage visitors. Unlike the earlier surgical strikes, this one will be followed up internally for some time, so that any residual ill effects of the Big C are destroyed. I too have to do my bit by fighting it spiritedly at all times, which I will.

One must never be frightened of the Big C, but fight it. Succumbing to alien forces or vermin that gnaw at your innards surreptitiously is never the answer.

Lt.Gen. Vijay Oberoi

Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi is the President of the War Wounded Foundation and former VCOAS.