26/11: A Salute to Commando Surinder Singh

26/11 instantly triggers our collective trauma of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. For those who were involved with the India Against Corruption movement and beyond, November 26 2012 signifies the birth of a political party that has carried the spirit of the revolution forward. One man manifests the horrors and inspiration of these two Indian events worthy of finding mention in archives of “this day in history”: Commando Surinder Singh.

I had the privilege to interview Commando Surinder Singh, ex-MLA of the Delhi Cantonment constituency. I requested that he allow me to share his story as my way of honoring his immeasurable contributions to our country over the last 18 years on the 6th anniversary of 26/11.

SoldierNeta

Boyhood

Surinder exemplifies the slogan Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan. The youngest of three brothers, Surinder was born to a poor wheat farmer in a Haryanvi village (Chhara), and was educated at the local government school. “I was an average boy who loved to play sports.” Surinder excelled at Basketball going on to compete at the national-level.

When I was young, Dadiji would often tell me stories about Dadaji. Surinder’s paternal grandfather had served in the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army). The Patriotic spirit led Surinder to enlist in the Indian Armed Forces as soon as he turned 18 in 1997.

Kargil and Mumbai

I served in the army for 14 years and 3 years, 10 days,” Surinder recounts. Just after he completed training, Surinder was deployed to the frontlines of Kargil in 1999.

Fighting a war is a 24-hour job. There is no set time to rest. Every moment is a gamble.”

Surinder fought the Kargil war for 2 months as part of Operation Vijay, but was stationed in the area for 2 years. Surinder defended India from potential Pakistani aggression during Operation Parakram (2001-2002). His military experience includes one foreign tour. Surinder was deployed to the Congo as a UN Peacekeeper for 14 months (Operation North Night). Despite 10 years of rigorous military service, Surinder escaped serious injuries.

By 2008, Surinder had joined the National Security Guard, which is a specialized unit for combating terrorist activities with a view to protect States against internal disturbances. Surinder left his wife behind with their son Pulkit, who was merely 48-hours old at the time, to serve in Operation Black Tornado: the 26/11/2008 operation in Mumbai. A helicopter dropped him on the rooftop of the Taj Hotel. A grenade explosion rendered Surinder deaf, and he sustained other injuries. Despite this, Surinder gunned down two terrorists.

Surinder was treated at an Army hospital in Delhi. Medical help was provided from 2008 to 2011, at which point the Army medical staff assessed that Surinder’s recovery would not be complete, and “From 2008 to late 2010, the doctors were expecting that my recovery would be successful enough to render me fit for service, but by 2011, their assessment changed.” The medical team declared Surinder medically unfit to serve. “This is when the problems started.” The medical staff denied Surinder treatment as he was stripped of his ECHS (Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme) Card.

Corrupt System Denies Kargil and 26/11 Veteran his Pension

For the next 19 months, Surinder was denied his pension, a promise that the Indian government makes with soldiers who risk their lives so that the rest of us can continue to enjoy our freedoms.

The next few months opened his eyes to India’s bureaucratic and political corruption. “I was unable to secure what was rightfully mine through official channels. I thought political pressure might help. Our politicians celebrated the sacrifices of our nation’s soldiers in their speeches. I thought they would be willing to help someone like me, but it was very difficult to meet them.” Still, Surinder managed to meet the most prominent names in politics. “I met Sonia Gandhi 10 times, Sushma Swaraj 4 times, and tried to meet Rahul Gandhi 10 times. I even met Harayan’s CM, Bhupinder Singh Hooda. No one was able to help me get what was rightfully mine.” Surinder’s case was ignored. The State continued to silently rob this decorated hero.

“It is insulting to have to spend months begging for what is rightfully owed to you.”

Accidental Entry into Politics

I had never imagined of entering politics.”

With nowhere else to turn, he gave the embryonic Aam Aadmi Party a chance. Arvind Kejriwal arranged a Press Conference for 21 November 2012. Within six months of the event, Surinder Singh started receiving his pension regularly.

“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I know my hearing was damaged, but all these years I was actually blind! A blind believer in the idea of Indian democracy.” One by one, all the big political names outright denied Surinder Singh’s claims. Even the Indian Army refuted Surinder’s claims.

Disgusted by politicians, yet energized by the possibility of improving the system, Surinder became a founder member of the Aam Aadmi Party. “My trials made me realize that the India I was fighting to protect, only existed in my imagination. I joined AAP to help make that India a reality.”

I never thought I would actually contest elections, but the party offered me a ticket for Delhi Cantonment.”

PressConference

Electoral Politics: Service to Nation Continues

BJP’s Karan Singh Tanwar had represented Delhi Cantonment for 3 out of 4 terms between 1993-2013. In 2013, AAP’s Commando Surinder Singh beat the Tanwar by 355 votes (0.54%) of the vote share. “These entrenched politicians are beatable,” Surrinder shares. Earlier this month, the Nav Bharat Times ran the headline “Dr. Harsh Vardhan Zero, Commando Surinder Singh Hero.” The paper ranked Surinder as Delhi’s top-performing MLA. “I’ve commissioned work worth 50 crore in this constituency” Surinder beams.

NBT Hero Zero

Delhi Cantonment has slightly different governing rules/structures compared to the rest of Delhi’s constituencies (e.g. Cantonments Act 2006). Being the MLA from Delhi Cantonment meant that Surinder had a position as a Council Member of the local Municipal body as well (NDMC), which took care of office space, and provided greater political power to commission public works. In addition to the 4 crore MLALAD, and the resources at the NDMC, Surinder could influence 4 crores of the Delhi Cantonment Board.

In April 2014, Surinder worked together with the Fire brigade to help douse the flames that had swept across the Vivekananda Cluster. “I paid special attention to that area for the next 15 days, until things started to normalize.”

In April 2014, Surinder worked together with the Fire brigade to help douse the flames that had swept across the Vivekananda Cluster. “I paid special attention to that area for the next 15 days, until things started to normalize.”

Surinder held over 40 Mohalla Sabhas, and addressed local issues such as water supply, the state of government schools, dysfunctional sewer lines, and lack of toilet facilities. He added 50 beds to the Army hospital, and even addressed waste management by purchasing 100 Dust Bins for his constituency.

I Salute You

As a serviceman and a politician, Surinder Singh has served India to the best of his ability. As we remember the lives of those we lost on 26/11, let us salute those who risk their lives to safeguard our liberties.

Interacting

Dustbins

Delhi Cantonment: Constituency Map

Delhi Cantonment: Constituency Map

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12 thoughts on “26/11: A Salute to Commando Surinder Singh

  1. and if the person is from delhiites in most of the cases (i wd say 75%) he supports aap…social media obviosly represents middle class..and sometimes many delhiites claim on social media that they travel on metro or something else and when the political disscusions starts almost everyone supports aap.i m confused very much confused who is lying herre? both cant be correct after all!!!..in social media atleast i dnt see any erosion of middle class support…nor do i think dlhiites hate kejriwal.being a neutral observer i cn safely say this same social media was very much anti aap during loksabha..and even though i m staunch kejriwal fan i was predicting 6:1 in delhi…going by delhiites reaction on social media..bt now i m confused.plz enlighten me..what is the ground situation there?…can aap win?..what is your personal asessment?..do pple really hate kejriwal?…i want aap to win..they are the only hope for our country..i donated 5000 for the cause though i dnt earn much…plz reply i desperately want to know the ground situation.

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  2. it was a great read again..thanx.one thing is seriously bothering me..as u r a delhiite i hope u will b able to answer.there is a glaring and stark difference between what the media says(like abp news givng 18 seats to aap newsx just yesterday in their cover story gve 0 chnce to aap zee news india tv says delhiites hate kejriwal) and what the social media says quora twitter comment section in all leading news papers except firstpost there is clear strong support for aap..in many cases hysterical support..2:1 ratio aap supporters out do bjp sprters if the person is delhiites

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  3. we already know by now that AAP Mla’s are doing their work well.
    we want that you do surveys and interviews of bjp and cong constituencies.
    Also we want the review by citizens of the respective constituencies

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  4. I pay my tribute and homage to all martyrs those who sacrificed their lives for our Motherland.

    I salute the people of Delhi and AAP also. Delhi gave recognition and honored a brave soldier like NSG commando Surender Singh by giving him the highest margin win, amongst all candidates of AAP, in the last Vidhan Sabha election from Delhi Cantonment..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Marteee dam tak support karrunga.. Koi mujhe manipulate Kar nehi sakta… Sirif ek matter pe shame lagta hai ovv vushan sir ki comments on Kashmir issue…

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